The Allman Brothers' annual March runs at New York's Beacon Theater always generate anticipation and in early 2013‚ there was more than usual based on rumors of new original material to be unveiled‚ including some numbers from Gregg Allman himself.
In that regard the eleven shows proved anticlimactic‚ as the band introduced no such songs by the band's namesake‚ despite the fact his animated body language‚ in combination with the depth and subtlety of his singing‚ suggested he's stronger than he's been in years and no doubt as inspired to write as perform.
Instead of new tunes‚ the soulful rendition of The Beatles' "Rain‚" did appear twice and‚ heavy on the Hammond organ‚ compared favorably to the solo version of Bob Dylan's "Just Like A Woman" Allman has played with his own band over the years. The previous night of March 15th‚ the second appearance of an interpolation of the band's signature instrumental "Mountain Jam" with Jimi Hendrix' "1983...A Merman I Should Turn to Be..." also generated its own share of drama‚ during a show that had a number of transcendent moments.
The Brothers have not often played estranged guitarist Dickey Betts' "Blue Sky" over the years‚ but it was exhumed this year and a scintillating rendition reaffirmed -- if that is really necessary -- the brilliantly intuitive guitar partnership of Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes. The duo didn't just replicate the progression of the guitar solos originally recorded by the tune's author and the late ABB founder Duane Allman‚ but intertwined in a tight upward spiral of their own. (This just one of the many moments suggesting that‚ in no uncertain terms‚ Trucks is still progressing as a guitarist.)
Saxophonist Bill Evans offered a similar instrumental epiphany when he guested on "Dreams." Courageously soloing after both Trucks and Haynes took their respective spotlights‚ he used his horn to plumb the depths of anguish at the heart of this the very first composition Gregg Allman brought to the band. Other guests were not so successful integrating themselves into the proceedings this night and the next: through no real fault of their own‚ Susan Tedeschi‚ Col. Bruce Hampton and Berry Oakley Jr.‚ among others‚ served more to disrupt the continuity The Allmans created‚ particularly during the first set March 16th.
That evening‚ the septet created a leisurely intro to "Done Somebody Wrong" that carried over into the easygoing swagger of "Don't Keep Me Wondering‚" while a focused run through of "Egypt‚" confirms the group has honed it fully into shape: the floating quality of the open-ended sections contrasted most effectively with the pointed melodic lines of its refrain. A scathing version of "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" lost momentum during the drum solo‚ though that intensity might well have been revived had the original encore‚ "Whipping Post‚" been offered instead of a repeat of "One Way Out" from the night before.
Surrounded by the aforementioned originals of Gregg Allman's‚ as well as the Haynes collaboration with Phil Lesh "Spots of Time‚" plus the Gov't Mule leader's own "Dusk Till Dawn‚" debuted during the run‚ the aforementioned instrumental of Oteil Burbridge's might well be the centerpiece of the first studio recording since 2003's Hittin' the Note. And with rumors beginning to swirl about a remaster of 1973's seminal Brothers and Sisters as well as the release of a heretofore bootleg only Live at Winterland concert recording‚ The Allman Brothers Band may be heading into their forty-fifth year as assertively off-stage as on.