Two years ago I saw the Allman Brothers Band (ABB) at the Beacon Theatre (without Lois). While I normally write very long music posts, that one was extremely short (mercifully so, say my readers).
Everything I said in that post applied to last night’s show as well. So, you would think that I could make this an even shorter post. Unfortunately, that’s no longer my style, and in addition to telling a little more about our experience, we also have photos, since Lois was with me this time.
We also had tickets to see ABB last year at the Beacon. Unfortunately, that entire slate of shows was canceled due to Greg Allman having a case of Hepatitis C.
The show last night was called for 8pm, but I knew from the show in 2007 that it was highly unlikely to begin on time. I was right. The lights finally went off at 8:27pm, and after three minutes of milling around in the dark, the music began at exactly 8:30.
As in 2007, the sound system was impeccable. You could easily pick out any instrument and follow it clearly. Very cool with so much going on at the same time. As is my newer custom, I will briefly cover each member of the band, in the order they were standing (or sitting) on the stage, then share some of the surprises of the evening.
First a shot of the entire band, so you can get a sense of their placement on the stage:
Allman Brothers Band
Greg Allman played the organ and electric piano at the far left edge of the stage. I don’t know how he feels inside, but from my perspective, he’s 100% back to normal. His voice is strong, his playing very good, and he seemed in good spirits all night long.
Warren Haynes plays lead guitar (essentially the Duane Allman role). He’s awesome, but he’s not Duane Allman. I’ll have more to say on that later, but I actually enjoyed his playing more last night than in 2007, and I also noticed his leadership more last night. He’s the primary traffic caller (at least that’s how it appeared to me).
Derek Trucks plays lead guitar (essentially the Dickey Betts role). Since Dickey Betts is one of my favorite all-time guitarists, and since he was my favorite ABB member, Derek has some tall shoes to fill for me personally. There’s little doubt that he’s a monstrously talented guitarist, and has played with some of the greatest (including 20 years with ABB, and he’s only 30 now, yes, that’s not a typo!).
Oteil Burbridge plays the bass. In 2007, I noted that he was amazing. He’s really one of the best rock bassists I’ve ever seen, and he was awesome last night (as I bet he is every night).
The four of them form a row across the front of the stage. Behind them is a row of three drummers/percussionists.
Jaimoe plays a normal drum set (at least from my vantage point, but he was furthest away from me). He’s extremely good, but his arm movements are way more controlled than the other two drummers, so it’s a little harder to associate some of the drum sounds directly with him.
Marc Quinones plays both a normal drum set, and also a large bongo set with his hands. He probably plays the bongos a bit more (65/35 if I had to guess), and he’s awesome at both.
Butch Trucks plays the drums, and on one number, also plays two giant stand-up bass drums (like an orchestra would have). In 2007, I didn’t cover each individual member, I only mentioned how amazing the three drummers are. So, I had no idea that Butch is Derek Trucks’ uncle, and actually gave him his start in the business.
I highly encourage you to read Butch’s bio, linked above, as I too believe that he is the glue that keeps the band’s sound so tight. He’s an absolutely extraordinary drummer (and probably a guy I’d really like hanging out with as well!).
ABB is so tight, it’s hard to describe. That’s with seven people wailing at the same time, and three of them drumming their hearts out. The slightest mistake would be painfully obvious, and they simply don’t make any.
This year is their 40th anniversary, and they’re doing it up in style. Even in a normal year, they typically have surprise guests join them on stage at the Beacon. It can be different people each night, so if you’re only going on one night (as we did/do), you have no idea who it might be, even if you read about who joined the night before.
Right before the intermission, three guys came on stage to join them. Left to right, they were:
Brian Mitchell (the site is not responding as I am publishing this, so I’m not sure this is the correct site!) played eletric piano and organ. He was exceptional, and better than Greg Allman (significantly) IMHO.
Tommy Talton payed guitar (standing to the right of Derek Trucks) and sang some as well. He’s very good, but not as good as either Warren or Derek.
Scott Boyer was next, playing acoustic guitar (rhythm) and later switching to electric. He was on stage more as a vocalist (singing lead on a few numbers), rather for his guitar skills, which may be considerable, but he didn’t display them last night.
They played for 75 minutes in total, and then took a 30 minute intermission. When they returned, there was another special guest on stage, Sheryl Crow! She sang three numbers, and played guitar on the last one. She has a fantastic voice, and it worked well with ABB.
In case you aren’t convinced yet, it turns out that the Internet is pretty cool (who knew?). With one Google search, I found a site that has the full setlist from last night, including a YouTube video of Sheryl Crow singing Can’t Find My Way Home (and the concert was just last night!). The quality of the YouTube video isn’t half bad, and you can also see Derek Trucks playing the guitar (Warren to a lesser extent) and Marc Quinones playing the bongos.
Both Brian Mitchell and Tommy Talton joined ABB for a number of additional songs, including the amazing encore (One Way Out). James Van DeBogert came out for the encore only, played the drums, making four simultaneous drummers during the encore. I don’t recall him being introduced.
They played 65 minutes before leaving the stage for a couple of minutes, returning for the one-song encore. In total, they were on the stage for 150 minutes. Given the 30 minute delayed start, and the 30 minute intermission, from original show time until we left was 3.5 hours, a long night for us old fogies.
By now, you are probably praying that this is the end, but unfortunately, it’s not. I still have some more things to share.
When I wrote the post in 2007, I mentioned that I preferred Duane and Dickey to Warren and Derek. Other than saying that they didn’t duplicate Duane and Dickey’s sound exactly, I am not sure that I could have explained what I really thought the difference was (meaning, was I just lamenting not hearing exactly what I was used to?).
I think I can put it into words a bit better now. One of the reasons is that while exercising today, I listened to the full two CDs of my favorite ABB album, Live at the Filmore East. Since they played both You Don’t Love Me and Statesboro Blues (both on that album), and both were still fresh in my mind, I was able to make the connection.
Duane and Dickey essentially play symphonies, with all of the thematic variations, both solo and in duets with each other, while remaining so true and consistent with the awesome drummers and bass. Every note makes sense in the context of the song. There is also rarely any pause whatsoever. The guitar is wailing non-stop, dancing up and down the frets creating the symphony.
Warren and Derek have the technique, and the physical talent, but for whatever reason (they don’t want to duplicate the old sound on purpose, they don’t like it, they want to innovate and just jam, etc.), they miss the soul of the song (the ABB songs, not their own!). Their leads often seem to be disconnected from the actual song, other than fitting the beat. There are often long pauses as they appear to decide what they feel like playing next.
Technically, it’s all virtuoso, and they are really great guitarists, but when you listen to Duane and Dickey do it (live too, since Filmore East was recorded live!), the difference is so obvious, and magical. Do yourself a favor and listen to Statesboro Blues from that album, and hear what perfection the guitars are!
Having come last night with different expectations, I wasn’t really disappointed at all in the play of Warren and Derek. It was great, just different, and not what I would pick if I could resurrect Duane and Dickey. Since I can’t, I still thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.
On to our final chapter, Lois. While I bought two tickets to see ABB at the Beacon three years running, this was the first time Lois actually came. The first year, she offered the ticket to a friend who is a huge ABB fan, and she went with his wife to see Abigal Washburn and Bethany and Rufus at Joe’s Pub.
The second year was canceled (as noted above). This year, I offered to find someone else to go with, but she insisted that she would give it a try, and bring along her ear plugs! We had pretty good seats (13 rows back, aisle and one in, but very right orchestra).
While the ear plugs worked really well according to Lois, nothing else did. It’s really as far from her kind of music as you can imagine, plus she’s not familiar with it, so there’s no anticipation either, and, as expected, everyone in front of us stood for the entire show! I stood for all but two songs (and didn’t really mind it this time), and Lois stood for three or four songs.
Normally, the thought of standing all night is anathema to both of us. If you’ve read this space before, you’ll recall that we left the Sister Hazel concert before it started (and we really love them!), when we found out that the new Filmore at Irving Plaza is Standing Room Only (SRO). So, why didn’t it bother me last night?
Even though I stood, I had a seat! What? That means:
- I had my own space, which was only slightly invaded by the drunk to my right
- I could put my hands on the seats in front of me to shift my weight
- I could sit when I wanted (giving up a bit of the view), like I did for two songs
- I could sit for the entire 30 minute intermission, and for the 45 minutes that we were there before the show started!
Compared to standing in a wide-open room, with tons of drunk people dancing all around you, it’s simply no comparison. Lois couldn’t understand why people choose to stand. The music is more of a sway along rather than a dance along. She was surprised at how slow some of the numbers were, but of course, she didn’t know that many of the ABB hits are really blues-style rock.
I don’t intend to subject her again to this type of show, but I really did love it, all of it, and would happily go again in the future, likely with someone else.