Allman Brothers Band
Thursday, March 26
I felt like this is something I should do at least once, given that many people feel like they should do this, like, hundreds of times. “There’s an extra rig onstage,” notes a clearly loyal gentleman in the men’s bathroom, minutes before showtime. “You think they got someone with ’em tonight?”
“Nah, it’s the 40th anniversary,” his friend replies. “Pure. Thank God.” Talk then turns to last Saturday’s evidently incendiary version of “Black Hearted Woman.”
Tonight, Beacon ’09 show 13 out of 15, is indeed the Allman Bros. 40-year anniversary, to the very day, with two specters hanging over it: founding guitarist/sweet dude Duane Allman (died in a motorcycle crash in October ’71) and longtime guitarist/not-quite-as-sweet dude Dickey Betts (estranged from the band, seemingly permanently, in 2000). The annual Beacon run is a carnival of alleged special guests (Clapton stopped by earlier this month to spray “Layla” all over the place), and tonight’s will-Kanye-play-Fader-Fort rumor is Holy Shit, Dickey’s Coming Back. Which he does not. (A diehard in my section, after lamenting that it’s not the same without him, declares that Duane himself, joined by Jimi Hendrix, is more likely to appear onstage.)
This does little to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm, either band or impressively devout crowd. Tonight’s three-and-a-half-hour program is split into two sets, the first devoted to their 1969 self-titled debut, track by track, the second pulling the same trick with the following year’s Idlewild South. Greg’s warmly craggy voice is in fine form, the three-man percussion team (two traps, one miscellaneous) bops amiably along, etc., but while lead-guitarist #1 Warren Haynes fires off an hour’s worth total of marvelous, incendiary solos, he pales in comparison to lead-guitarist #2 Derek Trucks, who is just 12 kinds of badass, ripping off commute-length diatribes as raucous and engaging as any guitar solos I’ve ever seen live, the effect on the Beacon flock almost Pentecostal.
Idlewild South I find a bit more engaging, with quick, dirty, sweetly succinct Southern-rock dips “Midnight Rider” and “Please Call Home” there to offset tonight’s star attraction — a deceptively mellow, literally Catholic-mass-length “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” with long declamations by Haynes and Trucks both, their momentum then sadly annihilated by a six-string bass solo and subsequent four-man percussion jam, wherein I finally realized how long this show actually was. I entertained myself instead with the live-blogged message-board thread devoted to the show at allmanbrothersband.com, folks watching along via streaming video, frequently “Snoopy dancing” evidently, and why not. Twenty pages before the show was even over. This right here is what the music industry as a whole wants to be, and won’t be. After a week of professional indifference at SXSW, it was a thrill to sit among actual, diehard fans for a change, a thoroughly engaging experience even when the percussion jam wasn’t.
The Allman Bros. play the Beacon Friday and Saturday night. Whispers of a Kid Rock cameo, FYI.