Having witnessed every spring Beacon stand since 1994 - countless guests, breakout tunes and mammoth jams included - I naively thought I had seen all the Allman Brothers Band could do inside the walls of this Manhattan landmark. But with this year’s run, they proved me wrong once again and I’m ecstatic they did so. What Warren Haynes has done with this band during his second stint is nothing short of amazing. The first time around he evolved from being the first guitarist worthy of playing Duane’s parts since his death to becoming an auteur in his own right. Now, like a true superstar, he has elevated the play of everyone around him. On March 19th, he whipped the Saturday crowd into a frenzy by energizing such classics as “Hot ‘Lanta,” “Done Somebody Wrong” and “Every Hungry Woman.”
Wunderkid Derek Trucks, a blues and jazz giant in his own right, has become nothing short of monstrous during Haynes’ return. His wife, Susan Tedeschi, proved she’s no slouch with the axe either, by coming out and playing the Dylan classic “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright.” She stayed on as Little Milton arrived to lead the band through “Blues Is Alright” and “Stormy Monday.” Never has a band with such a trademark sound reinvented themselves with different members. And this was only the first set.
Gregg, who sounds younger than he has in a decade, got behind the baby grand for “Please Call Home” before being joined by Warren on acoustic for “These Days,” a classic (penned by Jackson Browne) from Gregg’s Laid Back album. The band followed by inviting sax player Ron Holloway and Oteil Burbridge’s brother and flautist Kofi onstage. What followed was a 40 minute version of “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed.” Holloway’s incendiary solo didn’t prevent Warren, Derek, Butch, Jamoie or Oteil from getting their turn. In fact, Holloway and Warren engaged in a little “call and response” that brought the house down. Oh, by the way, “Dreams,” “Rocking Horse->One Way Out” and “Whipping Post” followed.
As it turned out, the closing night, produced a totally distinct effort that actually surpassed Saturday. Scorching versions of “You Don’t Love Me,” “Midnight Rider” and “Statesboro Blues” started things off. All five pieces of the Jukes Horns came out for “The Same Thing” and a Last Waltz style rendition of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” with Gregg on vocals. The new instrumental, “Egypt,” debuted just a week before, sounded like Warren’s interpretation of Blues For Allah. A soulful “Into The Mystic” was dedicated to the late Bill Graham before former bandmate Chuck Leavell showed up. “Come And Go Blues” and “All Night Train,” two songs Chuck helped to put onto vinyl, followed. If the set wasn’t hot enough, the band shocked everyone by closing with “Blue Sky.” Gregg sang Dickey’s vocals and Warren and Derek provided the solos. Amazing.
But my jaw hit the floor when the same two guitar gods came out for an acoustic version of “Little Martha,” which hadn’t been performed since 1993. The band reached into the Eat A Peach songbook for another rarity, “Les Bres In A Minor.” “Good Clean Fun” was followed by Warren’s version of the Otis Redding classic “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember.” Muddy Waters’ classic “Can’t Lose What You Never Had,” a staple of the late 70s Allmans, set the table for a towering “Desdemona.” This unit has a sound all its own right now, so it was fitting that they closed with their take on “Jessica.” Chuck Leavell played the keyboard solo that defined the version from Brothers and Sisters and Warren and Derek actually made me forget Dickey during a song he wrote. I’m as surprised as you.
The show closed with a double shot encore. “Southbound” featured Page McConnell on keys, the Jukes Horns and Matt Abts on the skins. As you can imagine, it was a tour de force. The band left the stage by honoring their founder with a scorching version of “Layla.” I’ve explained it a million different ways and I still haven’t done these shows justice. Get yourself a copy as soon as you can.
Photos by George Weiss