Heavenly, flawless revival of The Allman Brothers

The concert celebration of the Allman Brothers featured a cascade of other innovative songs seeded in the blues, hardened by rock, and rounded with jazz.

Five and a half years after The Allman Brothers Band played its final concert at New York City’s Beacon Theater, the surviving members, minus the long-retired Dickey Betts, regrouped as The Brothers. This three CD set captures the huge, 50th anniversary celebration at Madison Square Garden in crisp, clear sound.

What turned out to be the last major concert in America featured a band well-rehearsed and locked tightly by uncommon proficiency, conviction and elation. The Brothers lit up all 18,000 fans as soon as they struck their first notes.

Founding drummer Jaimoe flickered over his kit next to Widespread Panic’s Duane Trucks, who hit the skins assuredly in place of his late uncle Butch Trucks. Marc Quinones filled out the percussion line with Latin finesse. Bassist Oteil Burbridge stirred the bottom with no less power and perhaps more fluidity than Berry Oakley did five decades prior, and Reese Wynans, of Stevie Ray Vaughan fame — who nearly joined the Brothers at the beginning — was in heaven, and heavenly, filling Gregg Allman’s huge void on organ.

As a special treat, Chuck Leavell, now of the Rolling Stones but a Brother in the early 1970s, played grand piano for the middle third of the show. Guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks commanded center stage naturally, leading this incredible aggregation of musicians through a 24-song extravaganza that swung the blues and showcased a cascade of other innovative songs seeded in the blues, hardened by rock, and rounded with jazz.

Haynes bravely sang 18 songs that Gregg Allman made famous, alluding at times to Allman’s growling blues intonations, but always with his own very soulful animation. That an audio/visual was projected of Mr. Allman singing the opening lyrics of his pained “It’s Not My Cross to Bear” at that outset, before Haynes chimed in, was a brilliant honor. Their voices blended nearly indecipherably, setting a welcome tone for the next 3 ½ hours.

The set list and pacing were flawless. After a definitive, rousing Allman Brothers take on Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues,” the celebration rose up further on Betts’ “Revival,” perhaps the most appropriate song to classify this show. Of the five instrumental opuses played, the band’s rumbling “Mountain Jam” towered high, Leavell having come off his signature turns in the equally majestic “Jessica” with yet more glistening expression.

As much as the glowing spirits of guitarists Duane Allman and Dickey Betts were floating close to them, Trucks and Haynes bent and blended blue notes within their own astonishingly broad spectrums. What seemed on the surface to be hot knives thrown back and forth with abandon between them during Elmore James’ “One Way Out,” for instance, were actually many intricately conceived lines of blistering musical communication. Throughout Gregg Allman’s timeless “Come and Go Blues,” and Haynes’ own classic “Soulshine,” their glorious harmony together couldn’t have been more emotionally riveting.

The Brothers in Heaven had to have been grinning ear to ear as The Brothers down here breathed such energetic life into this incredible legacy of music, one more time.

-Tom Clarke 

The Brothers
March 10th, 2020 / Madison Square Garden / New York, N.Y.

Label: Peach/Nugs
Purchase: www.nugs.net

ABOUT Tom Clarke

Tom Clarke
From pre-war blues to the bluegrass of the Virginia hills, Tom Clarke has a passion for most any kind of deep-rooted American music, and has been writing about it for 23 years. He’s particularly fond of anything from Louisiana, and the 45-year timelines and ever-growing family trees of The Allman Brothers Band and Los Lobos. Tom’s reviews and articles have appeared in BluesPrint, the King Biscuit Times, Hittin’ The Note, Blues Revue, Elmore, Blues Music Magazine, and now, Tahoe Onstage. Tom and his wife Karen raised four daughters in upstate New York. They split their time between the Adirondack Mountains and coastal South Carolina.

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  1. Great stuff ! The sound is fantastic on this and the show is absolutely mesmerizing. Sometimes it is the only thing keeping my sanity these days. If this ends up being the last concert I attend it will remain one of the highlights of my more than 1,000 shows in my life. This CD will stay in regular rotation for me for a long, long time and the sound is just terrific! It will be a shame if this one time lineup never plays together again but if it turns out that way at least with have this. Now we just need a DVD of it!

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