TICKETS TORN IN HALF: “A CELEBRATION: 50 YEARS OF THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND” as performed by THE BROTHERS,
March 10,2020 @ Madison Square Garden,NYC
A Golden Anniversary is a great way for couples to celebrate a half century of loving companionship. But, golden anniversary record releases are a different story, compounding that a “50 Year Celebration” of a band’s music might be difficult to pull off. The Stones, sure, they are still somewhat relevant, Herman’s Hermits, not so much. Yet when it was announced that THE BROTHERS, surviving members of the various incarnations of the ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND sans DICKEY BETTS would be performing at MADISON SQUARE GARDEN aka THE WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS ARENA, I was in for the “celebration” from the get-go.
This ALLMAN BROTHERS obsession for me goes back 49 years and 47 shows ago to March 13,1971 when my college radio station partner and I got tickets from Columbia Records to see JOHNNY WINTER AND. Well, the review for WINTER went out the door the minute I heard the twin guitar approach with dual drummers of the ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND. The vocalist was amazing. The late show even better than the early show.Magical. Hence, that night’s performances became an integral part of one of the greatest live recordings LIVE AT FILLMORE EAST.
So many years later,March 10, 2020,with a group of different players but somehow the music performed this night touched me almost as much as it did in ’71.
The pre-show discussions overheard though out the sold out house included “Why just THE BROTHERS? Who owns “the name” ALLMAN’s?”, “What will they play?”, “Who will sing vocals?”, “Where’s Dickey?’”,“Who will sing Blue Sky” and of course , “Will we catch this Corona thing?”
Remembering a snippet from an old BUTCH TRUCK interview of yesteryear, Butch stated that he envisioned a time when the music of THE ALLMAN BROTHERS would tour ala the DUKE ELLINGTON ORCHESTRA without any original members.Hmmmm.So here it is.
The lights dim precisely at a very professional 7:30 pm with a slight moment or two to plug in, tune up and hit the opener of THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND debut album, the SPENCER DAVIS tune “Don’t Want You No More” which tonight just like on the album morphed into “It’s Not My Cross To Bear” complete with a portrait of Gregg on the screen AND his lead vocals looped in with guitarist/vocalist WARREN HAYNES. The applause at the end of the selection(s) was deafening, but not as loud as the whoops and yells when we heard Warren say, “ 1,2,3” the intro to the BLIND WILLIE MCTELL song “Statesboro Blues”,a signature tune for the original band. DICKEY BETT’S penned tune “Revival” from the second lp was next, followed by “Trouble No More”, “Don’t Keep Me Wondering”, “Black Hearted Woman”, “Dreams”(fav of mine), and a smoking “Hot ‘lanta”. CHUCK LEAVELL, a member of the post-Duane ensemble was introduced for “Come and Go Blues”,”Soulshine”,” Stand Back”, and ultimately “Jessica” complete with his amazing piano solo closed out the first set.
With that said, my buddies commented that if the evening was over at this point the ticket price of over $200.00 was well worth it.
For set two the core of founding member Jaimoe(drums), Derek Trucks(guitar), Warren Haynes, Marc Quinones (longest tenured member on various percussion),Oteil Burbridge (bass), former member Chuck Leavell, once again shared the stage with WIDESPREAD PANIC’s drummer, brother of Derek, DUANE TRUCKS and keyboardist REESE WYNANS, a former member of STEVIE RAY VAUGHN’s band. The audience knew that at some point we would hear the familiar riff from the improvisation of a DONAVAN melody renamed “Mountain Jam” but never expected it to start the second set. This 20 minute exchange set the tone for the next few selections as each musician was given a chance to step out into the spotlight.DEREK TRUCKS utilized DUANE ALLMAN’s legendary 1957 LES PAUL GOLD TOP, the same guitar which was used during the recording of the first two ALLMAN lps as well as during the LAYLA sessions, the guitar which recently sold for $1.25 million, one of the top five most expensive guitars ever sold (according to Stringjoy). To further answer the question posed about DICKEY BETTS’ absence, CHUCK LEAVELL sang the next tune, “Blue Sky” (complete with a Franklin’s Tower tease) as did most of the 20,000 plus folks in attendance.Warren Haynes provided the vocals and guitar solo for a smoking hot version of a latter day ABB song ,“Desdemonia”.
Chuck Leavell’s piano introduction to “Ain’t Wasting Time No More” was met with cheers becoming an almost mandatory sing and dance along. It was party time in The Garden. Phones were out recording the event, beers were being raised toasting our great fortune. Smiles abounded. Chuck took his leave after this number. As long as everyone was standing, “Every Hungry Woman” kept the crowd enthusiasm going.
Warren strapped on an acoustic guitar,and with that the opening chords of “Melissa” changed the mood immediately. Derek’s beautiful electric exchange help calm the mood even further. The crowd was listening to each word, each note. This somber song made me reflect on how GREGG ALLMAN’s vocals will be forever missed but Warren was doing a yeoman’s job tonight. The applause for “Melissa” seemed to last forever.Gregg was smiling down on us.
A deep breath was taken by the band, a slight interchange, a few tuning notes and soon we were deep “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”, followed by the Bo Diddley beat of “No One To Run With” and concluding with “One Way Out”.
The band returned to the stage with a short word or two from JAIMOE and as most in the crowd were yelling for “Whipping Post’ as the encore, the band with Chuck Leavell hit the notes for “Midnight Rider”.Beautifully done. Then, Oteil stepped forward and his thundering bass led us through “Whipping Post” complete with a “Les Brers In A minor” thrown in for good measure.The band meet at mid-stage, took a few bows, a few photos and the house light rose. #48 in the books.