Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Allman Brothers Band’s 2012 St. Patrick’s Day Special at the Beacon

As I promised I would share it with my loyal readers, below is the review of the Allman Brothers Band's March 17th show at the Beacon, I wrote for my arts journalism class:

Every March thousands of basketball fans unite to form March Madness brackets, however, they’re not the only excited ones this time of year. The Allman Brothers Band is famous for its annual run at the Beacon Theater in New York City. At 8:00 PM on March 17, 2012, Saint Patrick’s Day, The Allman Brothers Band and its select guests wowed the crowd at the 6th of their 10 performances in the 2012 rendition.
The Allman Brothers Band melds old and new faces. The founding members Gregg Allman, organist and guitarist, Butch Trucks, drummer, and Jai Jaime Johnson, drummer, keep the shows on the road. However, with some of the band’s old talented members gone, most notably Duane Allman, Dickey Betts and Berry Oakley, it relies on its newer members Warren Haynes, guitarist and vocalist, Derek Trucks guitar, March Quiñones, drummer and Oteil Burbridge, bassist. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t call any of these fellows “a newbie” as they all joined the band in the 1990s. They all contributed to the band’s 2012 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Many people no longer attend Allman Brothers Band shows, thinking the band is made up of old fogies who don’t produce new music and rest on their laurels. This year’s Grammys proved otherwise. Out of the five nominees for Best Blues Album, three of them were members of the band! Derek Trucks was nominated for the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s Revelator, Allman was nominated for his own Low Country Blues, and Haynes was nominated for Man in Motion. In the bitter end, Trucks and his wife/vocalist Susan Tedeschi took the glory.
The best part of any Allman Brothers Band concert is the fact you never quite know what you’re going to get. Sir Paul McCartney pleases crowds with humor, voice, guitar, bass and piano playing. However, his line-ups rarely change. The first time I saw him at Citi Field, I was fascinated by his set list and transitions. I laughed when he introduced his cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” by arrogantly sharing how he was proud that Hendrix covered “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” two days after it was released. When he repeated the same story two years later at the first show ever at the new Yankee Stadium, I appreciated it far less. Inversely, with a wide variety of set lists and guests, you never know what type of rabbit the Allman Brothers Band will pull out of its hat.
Despite their surprises, the Allman Brothers Band has a repertoire they frequently select from. The band opened with the catchy tune “Midnight Rider. “You could hear the audience mimicking Allman and Haynes: “I’ve got one more silver dollar; but I’m not gonna let him catch me, no, Not gonna let ‘em catch the Midnight Rider.” The fact that the entire audience sung in unison was remarkable. Allman Brothers fans are more than a random group of followers; they’re a family. Coming from Boston, I thought I travelled far to see the sold out show… until I met a large group of fans from Georgia, the Allman Brothers Band birthplace.
The first rabbitthe Allman Brothers Band pulled out of its hat was the Berklee professor/keyboardist Bruce Katz. He’s no stranger to the band as he has been a frequent guest; but March 17th marked Katz’s first appearance during the 2012 run. When he first came on and shed light into Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “The Sky is Crying,” a man behind me sighed, “I feel like I’m at an Allman Bros concert at a jazz club.”
To conclude the second set, Katz helped out in the classic instrumental hit, “Jessica.” The listener's full attention was drawn to Haynes and Truck's exchange of solos. There was a sharp contrast. Trucks tends to be mellower with his slide guitar action. As Burbridge turned his bass to look on, Katz enthusiastically swung his long hair and played a fast-paced funky solo. While their recital of “Jessica” was entertaining, it aroused too many memories of Dickey Betts, who wrote the song. Allman should really get over his differences with Betts and re-offer him a spot in the band.
During this show, the Allman Brothers Band pushed its eye-openers a little over the tipping point. One commentator on Jambands.com wrote, “The Allman Bros really need to write some music. I am sure this was a hell of a show, but they turned into a cover band.” He is too extreme as the covers of songs such as “I Walk on Gilded Splinters” and “Trouble No More” that the band played are part of what made it famous. I did sympathize with his point when Grace Potter, vocalist, Randal Ramblatt, keyboardist and James van de Borget, drummer, joined the newer members in a rendition of Neil Young's “Southern Man.” There was nothing wrong with covering one of Young's songs; however, something major was missing: the presence of any of the band's founding members. This song had minimal, at best, resemblance to the sound of the original 1969 Allman Brothers Band.
Despite Betts’ absence, Haynes, Trucks and Burbridge keep the energy of the Allman Brothers Band alive. On the last night of the 2012 run, March 25, disaster struck as the main man Allman could not appear for health reasons. As the saying goes though, “The show must go on!” Allman’s band mates did not disappoint. Haynes took his vocal parts and Katz came to the rescue to play organ all night.
While the band’s new talent is great, it’s important to remember the older members’ contributions. It was nice to see a change from the typical Allman Brothers Band stage layout. In the last several years, Quiñones was posted in the back of the stage’s center with his gigantic gong behind him. This year, he traded places with the time manager, Butch Trucks. No offense to Quiñones, but it seems natural for the founding member to take central stage. As the younger members show more and more of their own skills, it’ll be interesting to see if the Allman Brothers Band can continue its legacy after Allman and the rest of the old fogies retire. 


  1. I can understand why Allman can't quite get over his differences with Dickey Betts. After all, didn't Dickey Betts once pull out a gun and hold them at gunpoint during an argument? That's someone with whom I'd have a hard time reuniting.

    On another note, I was at the last show on the 25th. When I found out that Gregg wasn't there I was definitely disappointed. And I must say that the first half of the show was extremely disappointing overall. It lacked feeling.

    The second half of the show was much better. It had a lot more heart. Nevertheless, it was definitely not the same without Gregg Allman. As far as Bruce Katz goes, he is good on the keyboards. But when they played Jessica, it was made abundantly clear that only Gregg could properly pull off that piano solo.

    Taking the overall final show into consideration, I must say that it was disappointing. I go to at least one of the shows each year when they play the Beacon. And this particular one was probably the second worst I've seen. I know they played MUCH longer to make up for Gregg's absence. But nothing could replace that voice, and Jessica just didn't sound right with Bruce Katz filling in.

  2. Anyone going expecting them to sound like the brothers of 69 is a fool. That was 40 years and a few members ago. At the end of the day they are different bands existing in different times, both kicking ass and taking names.

    Gary - you may want to look up Chuck Leavell.. sorry to tell you that Gregg did not play the killer piano leads on Jessica.. in fact he hardly ever does great piano leads. His organ playing is where it's at though. Nobody has his sound or style..honestly nobody.