Editor’s note: Gregg Allman passed away on Saturday, May 27, 2017, at the age of 69. Below is a review of his final appearance at Lake Tahoe on Oct. 3, 2015.
It may be something of an understatement to say that rock stars do not always age well. That doesn’t apply to Gregg Allman.
The beloved rocker tore the house down in front of a packed crowd at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe’s South Shore Room Saturday night. Playing with a full band that included keyboards, drums, a hand percussionist, bass, guitar and a three-piece brass section, Allman played a memorable set that was intimate, upbeat, and simply excellent. Make no mistake, this was not a case of “doing himself justice” or “sounding pretty good,” Allman flat out killed it.
“This is always a great place to play, great crowd. I’ve been playing here since about 1980. But enough with the dates, yeah?” he said with a chuckle.
The band kicked the night off with “Statesboro Blues,” as enthusiastic fans cheered and danced in the aisles. Allman stuck to his Hammond B3 organ for most of the first half of the show, grooving to tunes like “I’m No Angel” and “Not My Cross to Bear,” but closed out the evening on electric guitar.
There was plenty of top-notch jamming, with numerous up-tempo instrumentals sprinkled throughout the set. The band dropped some jazz on the crowd during “Queen of Hearts,” with inspired sax, trumpet and organ lines that sounded as though they’d leaped straight from the streets of Harlem.
Watching the rock-great’s hands was a mesmerizing experience. Almost claw-like, tattooed, and ornamented with a glittering array of rings and bracelets, they seemed to dance over the keyboard and guitar strings alike.
The stage show was relatively simple, although a large projector screen provided some moving imagery, alternating between vintage black and white images, vistas of mountains, sky and fields of sunflowers, and lots of psychedelic, swirling colors.
Allman’s voice sounded terrific at age 67; seemingly weathered, smooth, soulful and straining all at once, it was a joy to hear tearing up classic tunes like “Midnight Rider.” This writer became decidedly misty-eyed at one point, when Allman stepped up from his organ bench, grabbed a beautiful Gibson acoustic guitar, and began to strum the opening chords of “Melissa.”
Allman and company closed things out with a high-energy set of tunes. They wrapped up with “Whipping Post,” stepping offstage as a roaring crowd called them back.
“We’re going to do a song by Dickey Betts,” Allman said as he took up his position at the organ again, before launching into the opening chords of “Southbound.”
All in all, it was a night to remember, with the audience held spellbound by one of America’s truly great musicians.
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