Another One For Woody @ Roseland Ballroom, November 22
By now, if you have even passing interest in what went down at Roseland last night, you’ve seen the setlists, soaked up the cool sit-ins, watched some video and admired, from afar, that when Warren Haynes puts together a guest-laden benefit event, he means Event. Having spent the near six hours it took to get to the finish line, your humble correspondent can say without hesitation that it measured up to the hype – and the ticket price – and then some. Show of the year, in many respects: not only did the Allmans, especially, clear the high bar of expectations, but most importantly, it’s also something that, yep, ol’ Woody would have loved.
Reviewing shows like Another One for Woody is a tricky business, as there’s not much in the way of continuity or the flow like you’d find at a “normal” show. In other words, you expect anchoring acts, filled with guests and setlists cleverly designed to push emotional buttons, and you’re aware of those constructions going in, during the show, and after. And yet, you find the rare, Last Waltzian blowout that does all those things — then transcends them — on the strength of top-notch playing, warm camaraderie in the name of a good cause and a good man, a terrific, fully engaged crowd, and grace notes (metaphorically speaking) amidst all the power chords. Here are 10 things I’ll keep with me from Another One for Woody, in no particular order.
The First Half Of NMAS
Whiskey Rock-a-Roller was a hoot, and so was the extended Gordie Johnson sit-in. But how much fun was it to see Luther and Cody Dickinson as a duo, kicking up a fearsome country blues racket with just fuzzed-out guitar and hammering drums? Here’s a band that I remember loving a long time ago, when their sound wasn’t so polished and their jams were country-fried and greased up. They were clearly into it, and while bassist Chris Chew – who wasn’t there – is an integral part of what makes the NMAS the NMAS, this was a solid 20 minutes of down-home hill country duo shit, naturally dirty.
READ ON for nine more highlights from Another One For Woody…
Stand By Me
No, no one played that song – come on, they’re not that cheesy – but there was more than one moment throughout the many sit-ins, songs and jams in which musicians demonstrated visible affection for one another. During Steppin’ Lightly, in which Danny Louis switches to guitar, he and Jorgen pressed up against one another, shoulder to chest, laughing all the way.
Or how about Artemis Pyle standing up from behind the drum riser and saluting, or slipping down during the end of Soulshine to hand Savannah Woody a tambourine? Or how about Berry Oakley Jr. reaching up for a long, double handed shake with Butch Trucks after Statesboro Blues during the Allmans set? Or the harmonies between Warren, Edwin McCain and Kevn Kinney during that heartfelt I Shall Be Released? Or Derek and Gregg laughing at each other during a missed cue in No One To Run With? Little moments, but real ones that add to the experience. Or how about at the end of a heartfelt Banks of the Deep End, when Haynes drew out the “when I lost my best friend” line, and then at the end, kissed his fingers and pointed them skyward?
Sizzling 32-20 Blues
This was probably the best group jam of the night, and that it happened on an often-played Mule staple was all the better – audiences are nourished when they hear new things, and stepped-up intensity, in songs and jams they think know so well. There’s Hook Herrera playing paint-pealer harp, followed by a drums/percussion breakdown with Cody Dickinson on an electric washboard spaceflight (“Cody Dickinson on…I don’t know WHAT the hell that thing is…” Warren laughed during introductions at the end). And then a fearsome guitar jam between two slide wizards, Warren and Luther, goading one another like it was 20 years ago and they were just fooling around. It was an organically developed jam, and radiated real heat.
You go into these events hoping for added moments: little tidbits, however small or remote, that add roundedness, nuance and extra excitement to the music. For me, a lot of that was the pre-sit-in introductions and stories of how Allen Woody, and the legacy of the Mule, too, related to many of the guests. Whether it was Luther Dickinson remembering how Woody would join he and Cody, just starting out as NMAS, on a nightly basis opening for Mule in 1998, or Warren recalling the significance of I’m a Ram and Gordie Johnson and the Big Sugar/Mule tour heydays, or Warren telling folks that it was with Artemis Pyle that Haynes and Woody first played together, it was all gravy.
A psychedelic summit between Warren and Chuck Garvey – who, like his moe. brethren on drums and percussion, was sadly underutilized – wringing every inch of drama out of a song you think you’ve got covered and plotted out but is always ripe for rediscovery. Chuck is a gifted explorer, and during his solo, sought out nooks and tucked away areas of the melody to build, then lead, the jam segment. Potent stuff.
Savannah Woody On Soulshine
Yes, it was a pre-planned Big Moment, and how could it not be: Woody’s lovely daughter, remembered by many as a little one running around during Mike Gordon’s Rising Low documentary, joining her musical uncles for their signature song and singing a key verse (“Just like my daddy used to say…”) to boot. It was a beautiful thing, though, made more so by Warren’s beaming ear-to-ear and a long hug at the end.
Almost No Dead
The hot rumor going into the night was that Phil Lesh and Bob Weir would sit-in, and that made a lot of sense, given that they’d just wrapped the Furthur tour a night earlier at MSG, and, of course, their connection to the Allmans, the Mule, and, in Phil’s case, the first One for Woody benefit. They didn’t show, but all the better: a lean too far into Dead territory (Allmans-ized Franklin’s Tower was just enough) would have changed the evening’s momentum. No one was really in the mood for a 17-minute Sugaree, were they, when plenty of Allmans chestnuts were there for the picking?
Black Hearted Woman Jam
The Allman Brothers Band hasn’t exactly been a factory of new material lately. Sure, the annual batch of new covers is fun, but they’re not always illustrative of this band’s strengths. Far more interesting to this ABB fan is how, in recent years, they’ve taken a number of ABB staples – Black Hearted Woman, Rockin’ Horse and No One to Run With – and used those songs’ jam segments as exploratory vehicles, often switching keys, tempos and styles to do so.
The Black Hearted Woman middle, which becomes a galloping jam that drops, for a time, into the familiar chug of The Other One, is to date the greatest example, and the jam itself has become one of the band’s most powerful and reliable concert moments. This show was no exception: Warren, then Derek, practically burned the place down with frisson-filled solos, dazzling in their execution. “En fuego” is the expression.
Derek In Whipping Post
Warren’s solo was great; in Whipping Post, it always is, especially when he uses the latter-day format of a major key solo that drops back into the familiar Whipping Post key just as it’s getting going. But what Derek played – good god, find a video or recording – raised the bar on any improvisation that had been played that night already, and probably all year: psychedelic progressions that burned into virtuosic note flights that exploded into an all-out sonic assault. Derek, not the most physically emotive musician, leaned forward during his final build-up, torturing the high register with an expression that, for the briefest of seconds, might have even been a lemon face. A jaw-dropper of a solo, even for the most appreciative of Derek enthusiasts.
Wish You Were Here
Leave it to Warren to tack on one more, button-pushing encore for a half-empty, exhausted Roseland. It was an unexpected, post-Allmans finale, though, and felt spontaneous and unplanned, even though the opposite was probably true.