MUSIC: Allman Brothers sell out the Orpheum all by themselves

MUSIC: Allman Brothers sell out the Orpheum all by themselves
November 19, 2010
By Jay N. Miller
Wicked Local Middleborough

MUSIC REVIEW: The Allman Brothers Band, at The Orpheum Theater, One Hamilton Place, Boston. Continues Friday & Saturday, both sold out.
The Allman Brothers Band has landed in Boston, kicking off a weekend of three sold out shows at the venerable Orpheum Theater. Thursday’s opening night survived a lengthy delay at the start to deliver the ABB basics: nearly three hours of music, enough scorching guitar solos to ignite Neptune, some wildly creative reworked classics, some self-indulgent jamming, and some tasty setlist surprises.

What last night didn’t have, from the biased viewpoint of South Shore fans at least, was any guests. Notably, no Susan Tedeschi guest slot, as the Norwell native, and wife of Allman Brothers Band guitar phenom Derek Trucks, did not appear. She has made frequent drop-ins at previous band concerts in the region, and is usually in the area around the holidays, but Thursday night’s 15-songs over two sets did not include any guests at all.

A problem with the ancient venues fire alarms–fire trucks were also up the street by the Parker House–delayed the start of the concert until 8:30 p.m. The tickets indicated a 7:30 p.m. start, and the band’s schedule had them going on at 7:50, but either way it was a long wait in the hot, cramped old theater for the sellout throng of 2800 loyal fans.

Due to the late start the theater got special permission to extend its usual 11 p.m. curfew, and the ABB played until 11:33, so fans got just as much music as had originally been intended. Nonetheless fans began filtering out as the eleven o’clock hour arrived, although the vast majority stayed to the finish. But the odd beginning gave the whole night an off-kilter feel, and as the concert progressed some tunes really connected, while others just unfolded in a rather predictable swirl of guitar solos.

The early set lasted 72 minutes and an early highlight was “Walk On Gilded Splinters,” the song made famous by Dr. John, which the late Duane Allman had once recorded with Johnny Jenkins. Thursday’s version was a marvelously spooky, lurching voodoo blues sung by Gregg Allman, as Warren Haynes crafted a sizzling slide solo, and then Derek Trucks used his slide talents take it into seriously supernatural territory.

Gregg Allman’s soulful smoky baritone was superb on “Come and Go Blues,” which seemed even slower than the recorded version. Gregg’s vocal could have been higher in the soundmix, but part of that problem stems from his singing style, and he still managed to make the tune an evocative heartbreaker.

Haynes’ own “Rocking Horse” became a fiery Southern blues-rock showcase for both guitarists, with Haynes ramping his own solo up to warp speed. The septet even slipped in a nice quote from The Meters’ “Fiyo on the Bayou” near the song’s end. Gregg Allman’s soulful voice again carried the night on a starkly moving “All My Friends,” which became almost a gospel blues as Trucks’ guitar spit out soul-stirring accents.

The old Derek & the Dominoes (Duane Allman, Eric Clapton, and Delaney & Bonnie) chestnut “Any Day” was one of the early set’s most vibrant pieces, sung by Gregg with two distinctly unique guitar solos. Haynes provided the Southern blues basis with his fiery solo, while Trucks unveiled a solo that was a masterwork of six-string squealing and wailing, like a creature so engulfed in yearning it was in agony.

The raw-edged “Black Hearted Woman” closed the first set with a brain-curdling arrangement that had Trucks slamming out his bent notes at warp speed, while Haynes turned its blues into country-funk, and then Dickey Betts-like soaring dreaminess. That one ended in the spectacle of a guitar duel along the highest notes on the respective instruments, where it seemed both Haynes and Trucks might implode.

One of the unquestioned highlights of the whole night had to be the opening song for the 90-minute second set, when Haynes, bassist Oteil Burbridge, and drummer Butch Trucks accompanied Gregg Allman, who played acoustic guitar, on a lovely stripped down take of “Sweet Melissa.” It was Gregg’s best vocal of he night, enhanced by the audience singing the chorus with him, and Haynes provided some artfully sparse guitar commentary.

The full band returned for the old Delaney & Bonnie song “Comin’ Home,” a full-bore blues-rocker sung by Haynes. The fascinating thing here was a call-and-response segment between the two guitarists that not only entertained, but gave a good capsule view of their different styles.

You would guess no one could do an inventive rendition of “Stormy Monday” at this point in history, but Thursday’s ABB version was a killer. Gregg’s honeyed vocal just engulfed the slowed down rendition, riding a dreamy foundation of organ chords, while Derek Trucks added pointed guitar melody, and then uncorked a subtly wailing solo that sounded like a poor soul crying. Haynes brought it all home with a more conventionally gritty solo, but it had been a superb re-interpretation of the old classic.

Freddie King’s “Woman Across the River rode a funky organ foundati
on, while the three-man percussion section of drummers Butch Trucks, Jaimoe, and percussionist Marc Quinones created a sea of polyrhythms. Haynes sang lead on that one and also provided a lively tribute to the Texas- King, who is surely the least appreciated of the famed blues guitarists-named-King.

The ABB then launched a lengthy instrumental, "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," and the extended guitar tones from Haynes and Trucks at the beginning were mesmerizing. But the two guitarists and Gregg soon strolled off stage, as Burbridge took off on a lengthy bass solo. It was appealingly funky, but too long. Concluding that, Burbridge took over Butch Trucks’ drums, while Butch pounded on kettle drums nearby, and the percussive quartet embarked on a 20-minute percussion segment. Seriously guys, well into the last 30 minutes of a three-hour show, you want to have a 20-minute drum solo?

The last encore was a delightfully straightforward and rocking “You Don’t Love Me” which ended the night on a properly potent note.

The Allman Brothers Band continues through Saturday at the Orpheum, although all shows are sold out officially. You never know who might pop up as a weekend guest.
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