Gregg Allman: Almost Hittin’ the Note

Posted: June 27th, 2013 | Filed under: Music | 1 Comment »

The last time I heard Gregg Allman with his band — at the House of Blues in New Orleans, sometime in the last five or so years, maybe — he was sober, I believe, and it wasn’t long after he’d taken on a new organ. (I don’t mean a Hammond B3.)

He was . . . catatonic.

His singing was heavy, devoid of energy, listless. The gang in the band he had with him didn’t seem especially aroused either.

It had been a long day, as I had just arrived in the Crescent City and was trying to get as much of the burg in as I could. And HOB was packed. Which meant standing bumper to bumper on the main floor. Or, in the always hip balcony, where there was a little more room, but, to find it, one had to stake a spot by the corridor to the restrooms with no view of the stage, nor of any of the jeune filles swaying below.

Having heard Allman dozens and dozens of times, going back to ’70, there was no reason to stand for mediocrity. Besides my dogs were yelping. I booked. I assumed there was a reason for the poor showing. I couldn’t conceive he didn’t care anymore. The guy’s a musician to the core of his soul. Body still accommodating new parts, perhaps. Adjustment to sobriety. Too much touring.

Whatever. Didn’t matter. I was out of there.

Last night at storm-drenched Iroquois Amphitheater, it was a whole different deal.

Allman looks great, in fighting trim. His locks have again grown to full Fillmore length. He was energized and ready to rock.

Not having heard the full ABB in years, I was hoping for more of that unique sound. But, this is Gregg’s band. The single guitar isn’t the centerpiece. There’s a fellow on horns, and another fellow on keyboard. (Actually Allman’s son Devon opened the show with his quartet, and that sound was real familiar. Now that kid, who looks eerily like his Uncle Duane, can do a reasonable imitation of Dickey Betts. He joined pop on stage for a couple of tunes, including “Dreams.”) (And, if you’re wondering about the Allman Brother in Exile Betts, his group, Great Southern, is playing Louisville on August 16. Oops, nevermind, it’s Louisville, Colorado.)

There was a time when Allman’s blues singing was as good as any Caucasian around. Genuinely soulful, it’s always been devoid of affectation. When he moaned like he was tied to a whipping post, you could feel his pain. He never tried too hard. The emotions came from his gut. (You’d be hurtin’ too, if you’d barely survived a fourteen minute marriage to Cher.)

He’s lost some of his vocal timbre through the decades. Drugs decimate, you know? On some of the tunes, especially the slower, relatively quieter ones, he now loses track of the key on occasion. But he’s still damn effective, 75-80% of prime.

He did some of the chestnuts.

“Wasted Words,” from “Brothers and Sisters,” one of my least favorite ABB song. “One Way Out.” “Melissa.” “Midnight Rider,” always a crowd favorite, gets the big beer boys howlin’ every time. And a tight, funky remake of “Whipping Post.”

Most of all, it was great just to see this rock icon in relatively good health, all things considered. Plying his craft, while the crowd was ridin’ the storm out.

Now, if my buds at Production Simple would only bring the whole Allman Brothers Band to town.

John, Billy, you listenin’?

Here’s a total no sequitur. Anybody else remember the free show on the Belvedere way back when, during the time the ABB had “broken up” because of the Scooter Herring affair? The Gregg Allman Band played. Preceded by the Dickey Betts Band. Then they jammed together for the first time, or so I recall, during that hiatus.

It was like biting into one of them big juicy Georgia peaches, I tell ya. The taste was oh so sweet, and the juice was runnin’ down your shirt.


One Comment on “Gregg Allman: Almost Hittin’ the Note”

  1. 1 Wildcat said at 6:16 pm on June 27th, 2013:

    Thanks for the report. Now, are you going to go to da Biscuit?

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