Allman Brothers Band

Dickey Betts at City Winery with Kristy Lee Opening

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Sometimes dreams do come true. Sometimes they don’t live up to expectations, but even then, the dream coming true is often enough reward. Such was the case last night, for me.

I grew up listening to what many people now call Classic Rock. There were so many great bands that I always feel stupid (rather just silly) saying So-and-so was the best, etc. Still, I often find myself using terms like favorite. A more accurate description would be one of my favorites, of which there were many.

Near the top of my list of bands (not necessarily in this order) were: The Allman Brothers Band, The Grateful Dead, Santana, The Who, Yes, The Beatles.

As many great guitarists as they were/are (who can possibly count), back then, my three favorite rock guitarists were Carlos Santana, Steve Howe and Dickey Betts. This is as much for their individual skill and style as for my love of the songs that they branded on my heart/soul/mind.

The greatest concert I ever attended was on June 10th, 1973 at RFK Stadium. 12 hours, mostly music (the intermissions were refreshingly short). The New Riders of the Purple Sage opened the show from 12-2pm. The Grateful Dead played from 2-7pm. The Allman Brothers Band played from 7pm-midnight!

I’ve never seen Dickey Betts perform live since then (heck, what’s 38 years between friends). I’ve seen the new incarnation of the Allman Brothers twice at the Beacon Theater (more on that at the bottom). I’ve missed a few opportunities to catch Dickey Betts and Great Southern over the past years and was glad to finally snag three great seats for last night’s show at City Winery.

DickeyBettsGuitar

I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know whether it would be mostly new music written by Dickey and/or his band members (Great Southern), sprinkled with a few classics. I was blown away to find out that it was mostly Allman Brothers songs, many written by Dickey himself.

The good: awesome set selection, great individual performances, nostalgia heaven.

The disappointing: somewhat faded skills (still better than most guitarists), classic leads were often simplified (or not executed that well), vocals were nowhere near up to snuff (timing, hitting notes and some lost words).

To repeat, Dickey was great, but he’s lost a step or two. He’s a bit more hesitant and not quite as smooth, though on occasion, the full-blown magic is there to enjoy. He kept the peddle that he pressed to switch from rhythm yo lead about 4’ away from him. It seemed to be a chore whenever he wanted to switch, and often caused him to start the leads a few notes later than he might have liked.

DickeyBettsSinging

I know it’s obvious to blame the change on age, but Dickey is not much older than Dave Mason, who in my opinion is as brilliant on the guitar today as he ever was. Dave’s voice is still the same too. Good genes, clean living, or both, who knows.

Some words on the rest of the band, left-to-right on the stage:

Andy Aledort on electric guitar. Andy took quite a number of the leads (I’d guess roughly equal to the number Dickey took). He split them between normal and slide. He performed the dual leads with Dickey that are a signature of many Allman Brothers Band songs and did an excellent job.

AndyAledort

I have no qualms with his guitar play, other than he took took many liberties (for my taste) from some of the original leads. I know people believe that artists should be able to grow, or do whatever they feel, but Andy doesn’t have the excuse of being bored playing these numbers for 40 years, so I would have preferred to hear them played the way they were recorded originally.

AndyAledortSlide

Duane Betts on electric guitar. I can’t find a good individual link to Duane (though his name pops up a lot, including YouTube videos of him). He’s Dickey’s son. I didn’t know that (like I said, I had no idea what to expect). Dickey never introduced the band, so I only found out this morning. That said, Dickey was very generous in pointing to every member of the band when they did something exceptional, giving the crowd the go-ahead to show their appreciation. Still, I’m a big fan of introductions!

Duane provided a third guitar for some of the classic dual leads, making them triples. Those were extremely sweet! He also took center stage as the main lead guitarist at least four times, with two of them being pretty long leads. He’s clearly a very talented guitarist, though I didn’t feel like I was watching a young Dickey Betts. He too suffered from getting to the pedal a few seconds late when it was his turn to take a lead.

DuaneBetts

Pedro Arevalo on electric bass. Fast, clean, tasty, excellent. When the band returned after a long drum solo, Pedro and Dickey sparred a bit on the guitar and bass, which gave Pedro a great opportunity to show his stuff.

PedroAlevaroDickeyBettsPedroArevalo

Mike Kach on keyboards (organ and electronic) and vocals. Mike was superb on the keyboards (he used mostly a piano sound on the electronic keys, and either switched occasionally to an organ sound, or had an real organ keyboard below it, out of my sight). He was also the primary lead vocalist, a job he didn’t handle as well to my taste. He sang harmony on the numbers that Dickey sang lead.

MikeKach

Mike had a Greg Allman look to him, adding a touch of mock authenticity to the Allman Brothers sound. Winking smile

Sitting behind these guys (and perhaps more importantly, behind their wall of amps!), were two drummers. Each had a full drum kit. In between them, higher up on the stage, was a full bongo-style set.

FrankieLombardiJamesVarnado

Frankie Lombardi on drums, the bongo set (a bit) and harmony. Frankie was exceptional on the drums. So fast, so interesting. He took an incredibly long solo that was absolutely mesmerizing. He only played the bongo set a few times, but when he was there, he also sang some harmony while Dickey sang lead, making it 3-part with Mike.

FrankieLombardiFrankieLombardiDickeyBettsSinging

James Varnado on drums. James was exceptional as well and was incredibly well-matched with Frankie. He too took a very long solo and killed it. Their solos couldn’t have been more different, which was also a treat, since they came back-to-back. James had a masterful touch of very soft/subtle (but really fast) build-ups.

JamesVarnado

Before they took their individual solos, they played a long duo. They played together perfectly, but also often created a stereo effect of starting a drum riff on one end of the stage, and as the drummer made his way to the other side of his kit, the other one picked it up (flawlessly) and continued across his set. Beautiful!

That duo followed by the solos occurred toward the end of my favorite Allman Brothers Band song, In Memory of Elizabeth Reed. The band walked off the stage leaving only the drummers. When the solos were over, Dickey and Pedro returned (mentioned above) followed by Andy, Duane and Mike. They then finished the song to rousing cheers.

I was blown away that they did In Memory of Elizabeth Reed. As much as I enjoyed it, it was the biggest disappointment in terms of living up to my expectations. I have listened to that song so many times over the past 40 years on the Live at the Filmore East album (one of the greatest albums of all time). Any note that’s out of place is jarring to me. Last night’s rendition wasn’t even close, though it was obviously recognizable as the same song.

That leads me to one final thing about the drums. The Allman Brothers Band has three full-time drummers/percussionists on stage at all times (and they typically add a fourth guest for some numbers). It’s such an integral part of their sound, giving such a huge bottom.

As extraordinary as last night’s drummers were, it wasn’t as obvious (or true to the ABB sound) during the songs. I’m guessing it’s because their kick drums were hidden behind a wall of Marshall amps. The drum play was slick, but the bottom just wasn’t there like at an ABB show.

I said up top that I would mention my recent ABB experiences. Those shows were great, but even though Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks are amazing guitarists, they try to avoid being copycats of Duane and Dickey. That’s the part I don’t like. The drummers are still worth showing up for, and the bass player is one of the best.

After walking off the stage, the band returned for an encore. They played Rambling Man. A great choice to end the evening.

Lois went up to the stage to try and grab the set list. It was behind the monitors, taped to the floor. I couldn’t tell whether she couldn’t reach it, or whether she didn’t want to risk ripping it. She took a photo of it (upside down) just in case she couldn’t get the actual papers (two sheets).

SetListTapedToStage

Standing off to the right of the stage was a man who was equally anxious to get his hands on it. He asked James Varnado whether he could have it, and James said no and kept walking.

Lois asked Andy Aledort if she could have it. He hesitated and said he wasn’t sure, but then walked off.

Lois left the stage area and found the band tech (the back of his T-Shirt said “Tour Staff”). He was the guitar tech and coordinated pretty much everything that happened on the stage before and during the show. Lois asked him for the set list, and he obliged, after apologizing for having to do something for his brother first.

TourStaffHero

He delivered! Below is what I believe to be a master set list. They didn’t play all the songs on this list, but I think they were prepared to play any of them. They picked roughly 1/2 the songs on the list. There was a late show that night (because the Sunday show was canceled due to Hurricane Irene). Perhaps they played a very different set after we left.

DickeyBettsSetListPick

From memory, the one’s I’m sure they played last night (not in order): Les Brers in A Minor, Statesboro Blues, Blue Sky, One Way Out, Seven Turns, In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, Jessica, Rambling Man (probably a few more, though each song was pretty long).

In addition to giving Lois the set list, he also gave her a Dickey Betts guitar pick. Cool! Memorabilia is one thing we really like. Thanks again “Tour Staff” guy, we are forever in your debt! Smile

DickeyBettsPick

Kristy Lee opened the show. She’s a singer/songwriter from Mobile, AL. The people who showed up early enough (1/3 of the eventual crowd) were largely rude and talked quite loud. Thankfully, Kristy has a very powerful voice (speaking and singing) and as annoyed as I was at the talkers, I could hear every word Kristy spoke and sang.

KristyLee

She accompanied herself on acoustic guitar (mostly strumming, but very nicely). I liked everything about her: voice, songs, stage presence.

KristyLeeSinging

Jimbo Kurisko accompanied her on acoustic guitar. No good individual link, but you can easily find YouTube videos of him and Kristy. Jimbo was absolutely outstanding! His leads were fast (mostly finger picked) and he and Kristy have a great rapport. She highlighted him on every song (usually twice). She would throw it to him by saying “Sing it Jimbo”. Singing it, in this case, meant make the guitar sing, baby! He did! Smile

JimboKurisko

We got to City winery 75 minutes before Kristy went on. We and a friend of ours enjoyed a wonderful meal, good conversation, and most importantly, an amazing carafe of City Winery’s own Zinfandel. Incredibly delicious (the wine, that is).

Eddie From Ohio at Innsbrook After Hours

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On Wednesday (June 10th) four of us spent the evening at an outdoor concert at Innsbrook After Hours.

The title of this post is totally out of character with my other music posts. I almost always put only the headliner in the title, and cover the opening act(s) after covering the headliner. Eddie from Ohio was the opening act, and I will cover them first. If you make it to the end, you’ll know why…

Last year, a friend of mine told me that I would really like Eddie From Ohio. I went to their site, listened to the many songs they were playing there on their radio site. I immediately bought one of their CDs (downloaded from Amazon.com) called Looking Out The Fishbowl. I like the CD, but I actually liked the music I heard streaming on their site more, so I should have done some more research before picking one album. Some of the songs on this CD are still awesome, so I knew I liked them.

I was pretty darn sure that it was one of two people at Zope Corporation that originally turned me on to Eddie From Ohio. One night (still last year), we were driving back from a concert in Alexandria, VA with a couple of those Zope guys, and I thanked them for recommending Eddie From Ohio. They stared at me blankly, as neither of them were the ones. So, whoever you are, even though I don’t remember which one of my friends it was, thanks for telling me about them!

Eddie From Ohio has been playing together for 18 years, with many CDs and tons of touring along the way. They’re great! Seeing them live was fantastic. There are four of them in the band. Left to right on the stage:

Robbie Schaefer on lead vocals and guitar. Excellent in every respect. He sings beautifully, harmonizes exceptionally well, plays guitar really well, etc. He also has an incredible range, as he does all of the bass singing. He’d be capable of playing that role in a traditional barber shop quartet.

Robbie Schaefer

Robbie Schafer

Julie Murphy Wells on lead vocals. Wow. Julie has a set of pipes on her. She sings fantastically, and has excellent energy and stage presence as well. While she also bangs on the tambourine on occasion, I’ll clue you in that it’s really about her voice, not the little cymbals. 😉

Julie Murphy Wells

Julie Murphy Wells

Michael Clem on bass, harmonica and vocals. Very good bass player, sings excellent harmonies (which is a major part of the Eddie From Ohio sound!). Great personality, handling a lot of the bantering on the stage with the crowd, and with his band mates.

Michael Clem

Michael Clem

At the show, I mentioned to Lois that he reminds me of a brother of Brad Garrett (from Everybody Loves Raymond fame). But, after looking at his pictures more closely, we both now agree that he’s much more reminiscent of Eric Bogosian (of Law and Order: Criminal Intent fame).

Eddie Hartness on the drums and vocals. As with Michael, the vocals are just harmony with the others. When all four of them are singing together, which is often, it’s absolutely gorgeous. Eddie is a top-notch drummer as well, in all respects. In addition to a full drum set, he also has a Djembe and bongos, which he plays phenomenally.

Eddie Hartness

Eddie Hartness

In addition to making great music (especially the vocals), many of their songs range from irreverent to downright hysterical. They have a great time on the stage, and make sure to bring the audience along for the ride. For one example (there are too many to mention), check out the words to Tommy the Canexican. Enough said! 🙂

At the other end, they sang two gospel quality songs, so they do it all, and do it all well!

Eddie From Ohio came on stage at exactly 6:30pm (this was an outdoor concert) and played for exactly one hour. They were awesome. We would have been thrilled to see them continue on, even though at the time, Lois and I were really looking forward to seeing the headliners as well.

During intermission, Lois chatted with a few fans of theirs, getting advice on which additional CDs we should get. Lois headed over to the little tent and bought Quick, and Three Rooms (a 2-disc Live CD), which I’m listening to as I type this. Absolutely wonderful, great recommendations. She also bought Robbie Schaefer’s new solo CD (which they did one number from at the show).

The intermission lasted longer than normal (a minimum of 45 minutes), but finally, Blues Traveler took the stage. We own one of their CDs, Four, which came out in 1994. We probably bought it then, or soon thereafter, so we’ve known about Blues Traveler for a while, but we don’t know much of their music, and had never seen them live.

When I got my first MP3 player (a Creative Zen player, I think before iPods took over the world), I was very stingy about which songs I ripped from my vast CD collection. Ironically, the player had 20GB, which seemed plenty at the time, but my laptop hard drive, which I was syncing from, was much smaller than it is now. Also, I didn’t know that ripping at 96kbps would give me as much fidelity as my ears can differentiate.

The above paragraph is simply to inform you that in my selectivity, the only song from the Four CD that made it on to my MP3 player was Run Around. Lois and I listened to it on every car trip for many years, along with two songs by the Proclaimers. This isn’t to say the other songs on the CD aren’t good, but I honestly can’t tell you any longer, because even though I have tons of disk space now, I was never tempted to re-rip the CD.

Cutting to the chase, Blues Traveler are an extremely talented group of five guys, but it’s not really our speed (either because they’ve changed/grown, or because we never really knew them, and just liked a tiny sliver of their older stuff, unknowingly). Basically, they are a straight up hard rock group.

I like rock (mostly older stuff), and I could have somewhat enjoyed the show, but the three other people I was with weren’t enjoying themselves, and I wasn’t particularly either, so 30 minutes into their set, we called it a night and left.

Ironically, we left right after they played Run Around. I’m really glad I got to hear it live, but not because it blew me away (it didn’t). John Popper, the head of the group (lead vocals, and by far the best harmonica player I’ve ever seen live) played with the song to the point where it was not as recognizable as I would have liked.

John Popper

John Popper

To repeat something from the above paragraph, John Popper is frighteningly good on the harmonica. In fact, when he takes solos on the harmonica, at times, I could swear it was a blistering electric guitar lead, he’s that good! He sings really well too.

So, if I like Rock, and they’re all talented (which they really are), and John Popper sings well, and is a superstar on the harmonica, what didn’t I like?

Mostly that you can’t make out any of the words (you’re basically being screamed at), and each song sounds like the last one. This is the kind of music you really need to be familiar with, from a studio album, so that you are hearing it correctly in your head while they’re just bashing it out on the stage.

I’m sure this is exactly how Lois felt at the Allman Brothers Concert, whereas I was in heaven, having listened to those songs for most of my life. 😉

To repeat, I think Blues Traveler deliver 100% satisfaction to their fans, or fans of that style of music in general. There was genuine adoration throughout a giant audience at the show, and I’m sure many people thought we were nuts for leaving early.

Rain was called for all evening, so we were prepared for the worst (with four large umbrellas in tow). Amazingly, the rain never came. It was quite humid, but nothing to complain about given the alternative.

Here’s a shot of Eddie From Ohio during their sound check, so that you can get a sense of part of the grounds when they were empty. The seats near the stage were the premium tickets that we had (we sat in the second row):

Eddie From Ohio Sound Check

Eddie From Ohio Sound Check

A quick back story. We are/were working down at Zope this week and next. We left work early on Wednesday and went to the show with our local Richmond friends. Innsbrook really has their act together. They told us to line up at around 5pm, for gates that open at 6pm. We did that. Gates opened exactly at 6pm.

They had a variety of food stands open on the grounds, and we all liked our meals. The show started exactly at 6:30, even though the website said that Eddie From Ohio would likely be on stage at 6:45. Oops, I hope no one timed it to come then, therefore missing 15 minutes of great music.

Everything was clearly signed, and when Lois called to ask about the seating (the premium tickets mentioned above), she got extremely accurate information, which is much appreciated, as it’s rarely available. This will become more important in my next post about the show we saw the next night.

We had a great time, even though we left early. That allowed us to settle in at our friends’ house at a reasonable hour, and the men watched a Blue Ray version of Live and Let Die. It was so spoofish that I was laughing out loud for nearly the full two hours. I enjoyed it, but only as a comedy, not as a spy thriller.

Allman Brothers Band at Beacon Theatre

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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

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.

Greg Allman

Greg Allman

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).

Warren Haynes

Warren Haynes

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!).

Derek Trucks

Derek Trucks

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).

Oteil Burbridge

Oteil Burbridge

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.

Jaimoe

Jaimoe

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.

Marc Quinones

Marc Quinones

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.

Butch Trucks

Butch Trucks

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.

Brian Mitchell

Brian Mitchell

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.

Tommy Talton

Tommy Talton

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.

Scott Boyer

Scott Boyer

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.

Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow

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:

  1. I had my own space, which was only slightly invaded by the drunk to my right
  2. I could put my hands on the seats in front of me to shift my weight
  3. I could sit when I wanted (giving up a bit of the view), like I did for two songs
  4. 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. 😉

The Allman Brothers Band

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OK, so last night was the night. My friend and I went to see the Allman Brothers Band (ABB) at the Beacon Theater. Previously, the only other time I was at the Beacon was for Dave Koz on Valentine’s Day. That show was awesome, but the acoustics were horrible. I suspected it was the sound guy, doing a terrible job at the sound board, and not the theater.

I was right 🙂

The acoustics for ABB were fantastic. As I described it to Lois (for those you of you read this post, you’ll recall that Lois went with my friend’s wife to see a different show last night), with the music wailing, one of the three drummers pulled out a tambourine, and when he tapped it (that’s right, not beat the hell out of it), you could hear the tiny symbols crystal clearly. We were sitting in the last row in the orchestra. Wow.

So, I truly enjoyed the show, and wasn’t disappointed at all. That said, two things to note on the negative side, even though they were minor in comparison with my overall enjoyment:

  1. We had to stand for nearly 90% of the show. When everyone else stands, you stand, or you may as well be home listening to your CD’s. It’s not that I get tired (I’m in pretty good shape), but I just prefer to enjoy the show while seated. Oh well, the energy level was good enough to carry me through (on stage, and in the crowd as well!).
  2. By any measure, ABB is noted primarily for the dueling lead guitars. The two guys currently fulfilling that role are no slouches (Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks), in fact, they are obviously talented. That said, they aren’t even remotely close to Duane Allman (deceased in 1971) and Dickie Betts (still playing, but no longer with ABB). I never saw Duane play, but I have seen Dickey live. Live at the Filmore East is one of my favorite albums, so I also know how Duane played.

They opened with a famous song, and I realized the difference in the guitarists right away. But, song number 2 was Statesboro Blues (one of their best), and in that one, the difference was stunning. Still, the song was fantastic, and their riffs outstanding, just not perfect. 😉

Aside from the guitars, the other thing that I always credit ABB with is a driving percussion section. They are one of the few bands with 3 full-time drummers. They are awesome, and I found myself concentrating on them a lot during the evening. They also had 2 guest drummers sit in on a few songs. On one of them, it was 4 drummers playing alone on stage, and it was mesmerizing!

Finally, the base player (Oteil Burbridge) was amazing.

All-in-all, a really fun night, that will be long remembered.

Rediscovering Live Music

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Sorry folks, this is likely gonna be another long one. It’s 5:30pm on a Sunday, and I’m relaxing in the hotel down near Zope, and this is what I feel like doing at the moment…

From my mid-teens until my early twenties, I was a fanatic for going to live concerts. I went to a variety of shows, but by far it was mostly rock or folk. Among my favorites back then were Dylan, David Bromberg, The Greatful Dead, The Allman Brothers, Santana, etc.

The greatest concert I ever attended was a 12 hour affair. My friends and I drove from NYC to Washington, D.C. for a concert at RFK Stadium. I was 16, and only had a learner’s permit (this will become important later in the story). 😉 At noon, the warm-up group came on, The New Riders of the Purple Sage. They played for 2 hours, and were excellent. At 2pm, The Greatful Dead came on, and played for 5 hours. At 7pm, The Allman Brothers Band came on, and played for another 5 hours.

Both the Dead and the Allman Brothers were awesome. Hard to pick between them that day, but perhaps (just perhaps), the Brothers outdid them a bit. Of course, since they got to go last, it could simply have been that their stuff was still ringing in our ears all the way home. 🙂

Anyway, when we left (hitting the parking lot at 12:30am), the driver (the only female in our group) was too tired to drive at all. So were the other two. I felt fine, but wasn’t legally allowed to drive at night, without an adult, and oh yeah, I had never driven on a highway either! 😉

Suffice it to say, it was quite an experience for me, and a drive that normally takes 4+ hours took a little more than 3.

I can still remember my last live concert (of that era) like it was yesterday. I got two tickets to see David Bromberg at Town Hall. First row in the Balcony. I was incredibly excited. I had seen Bromberg live 5 times before, and each one was better than the one before. He’s a magical live performer who really connects with the audience.

Much to my surprise (and chagrin), the audience was mostly teeny boppers. I was all of (perhaps) 23, so I was truly mature… It seemed to me that I was the only person in the audience who had ever heard of Bromberg, and came to actually see him specifically. The rest seemed to be out for the evening, hanging with their friends. They never stopped talking (loudly) even for a second. At least twice, Bromberg stopped playing in the middle of a song (I had never seen something like that ever before) and practically begged the audience to be quiet. They didn’t comply… 🙁

I decided that night to stop going to see live music…

That pretty much held true until nearly 15 years later. The Greatful Dead were playing Madison Square Garden, and I was able to get two tickets in the fifth row center as part of a charity thing. I wanted to do it both because I was crazy about the Dead, and because I wanted to share this kind of experience with Lois, who had never seen a band like the Dead play live.

We were grossly disappointed. Everyone stood the entire evening, and Lois could barely see the stage even standing on her seat (and we were 5 rows back!). The selection of music was a little strange as well, and they played the shortest concert I’ve ever seen them do, in the 5 times I’ve seen them live. Oh well, my admonition not to go to live concerts seemed safely back on…

I think the only exception to that rule was an evening at a Jazz Club in NYC (Birdland) to see Stanley Jordan. If you don’t know him, he plays an amazing style of guitar whereby he taps on the strings on the frets, rather than ever picking or strumming. He creates quite unique sounds, and is a fantastic performer. I enjoyed the evening. That night was more about an evening out with friends, including dinner, rather than the concert being a real destination.

Then it all changed (albeit a little more slowly to begin with) 😉

On January 17th, 2003, our godson (who was a junior at Duke at the time) came for a long weekend with some of his friends from school. Lois is a master planner and goes out of her way to try and pack as many interesting things to do whenever people come to visit. Our godson played the trumpet in the Duke marching band so Lois looked around to see if any famous trumpet players were in town. Indeed, Arturo Sandoval was playing at the Blue Note.

I think there were 7 of us there for the show, and we had dinner beforehand, and totally enjoyed the show. As much as I love jazz (and I really do!), Arturo’s style isn’t necessarily my favorite, but seeing him perform live was still a wonderful experience. In December 2003, our godson returned with a nearly identical set of friends for an encore (I think there was one swap in the group). We went back to the Blue Note, and saw Jane Monheit. Wow, can this lady sing. I got in trouble on this trip because we got to the club a little later than usual, and had the worst seats in the house (which aren’t that bad!), but Lois still hasn’t forgiven me, over three years later…

From that point on, we went occasionally to the Blue Note, either by ourselves, or when someone was visiting from out of town, and once even went with local friends (if you can believe that). 🙂 Among the people we saw there (I can’t remember them all) were Bob James (writer of the theme song from the TV show Taxi), Maynard Ferguson (twice, unfortunately now deceased), Acoustic Alchemy (probably my favorite jazz group!), Chuck Mangione (was my favorite for a long time, and is still amazing live) and probably another one or two.

This was over a period of three years, which is why I said above that it built slowly at first. Last September, it hit a fevered pitch, as we broadened our venues beyond the Blue Note. I started actively searching for tour dates for some of my favorite groups, and immediately found out that David Bromberg was playing at BB King Blues Club. We had never been there. The show was awesome, and included an hour of a group called Angel Band (which is three women who sing harmonies like angels, including David’s wife Nancy Josephson).

Since then, we’ve been to BB King’s many times. We’ve seen a wide variety of shows there, including the following groups: Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby (who tour and record together now, which we didn’t know in advance. They were awesome.), Shawn Colvin, Paul Thorn (he opened for Ricky and Bruce, and was a delightful surprise), Quicksilver Messenger Service (they were boring), Jefferson Starship (used to be a favorite, but they’re over the hill, were awful, and we left early!), The Commitments (from the movie of the same name), Yama Bandit (unannounced opening group for The Commitments), Sunday Gospel Brunch (tons of fun!), perhaps one or two others…

We also discovered a fantastic small club in NYC called Joe’s Pub. The first group we saw there is one of my recent favorites, The Duhks. Then we saw Master McCarthy and Fools for April with our godchildren. Finally, we saw David Bromberg solo there. A great treat!

We saw Dave Koz at the Beacon Theater on Valentine’s Day. It was an amazing show, even though the acoustics were horrible! He had two special guests that played most of the evening with him and his band. David Benoit and Jonathan Butler. David Benoit is one of the great jazz pianists. Lois is now one of his biggest fans. I had never heard of Jonathan Butler before. He’s a South African singer and guitarist. He blew me away. Anita Baker was supposed to be a special guest, but she got snowed in and couldn’t make it. Koz got his buddy Be Be Winans to step in at the last minute. Be Be sings “The Dance” on the Koz album of the same name, and is one of our favorites. It was a special treat to see him sing that song live!

Last week we saw Chris Thile and his new band The Tensions Mountain Boys at Zankel Hall, which is part of Carnegie Hall. Chris is considered by some to be the world’s greatest mandolin player. We used to think his last name was pronounced “teal”, but it turns out it’s “theely”, who knew. After recording a few albums on his own, he was the lead person in Nickel Creek (one of my favorite groups), before forming this group. Zankel Hall is under ground at Carnegie Hall, and perhaps the best acoustical venue we’ve ever been in.

That pretty much catches you up on what we’ve done. We have two more shows coming up in the next month. On April 3rd, we were supposed to see The Allman Brothers Band together at the Beacon Theater. Two weeks ago, we were having dinner with two of our favorite people, and we realized that the guy was a big Allman Brothers fan. Lois isn’t (simply because she hasn’t listened to them much, not because she actively dislikes them), and we offered up her ticket to him. Instead, Lois and his wife are now scheduled to see Abigal Washburn and Bethany Yarrow + Rufus Cappadocia at Joe’s Pub. We found out about Abigail Washburn when we were seeing Yama Bandit at BB King, and the person next to us (who was friends with the Yama Bandit band) told us how great Abigail is.

Finally, friends of ours who got dizzy when we recounted the above to them over sushi, surprised us a few weeks back and told us that they bought four tickets to see Harry Connick Jr. at Radio City Music Hall on April 21st (inspired by us). We’re looking forward to that show as well. 🙂

Whew! Done at 8:10pm…