The Allman Brothers’ frequent residencies at the Beacon Theatre have taken on considerable resonance over the years — acting as a clearinghouse for post-hippie memories shelved upon the breakup of the Grateful Dead, as well as a restorative dose of heads-down, no-nonsense blues-rock.
Clocking in at just over an hour, the first set was relatively restrained by the Allmans’ standards: Traditionally extended songs like the opening “Statesboro Blues” were truncated–comparatively speaking, of course — while more complex instrumental interludes like the jump-blues “J.J.’s Alley” were sorely lacking in passion.
Whatever transpired during the intermission — which was filled with film clips, including some vintage Betty Boop — seemed to stoke the septet’s engines. Opening with the rambling “True Gravity,” the musicians began to test each other, with plenty of thrust-and-parry interaction in the three-man rhythm section.
Although Gregg Allman started the evening in good voice, his earthy growl snaking stealthily through songs like “Leave My Blues at Home,” he lost steam early. As such, a fair amount of the three-hour perf was given over to instrumental jamming, including a briefly interesting, but ultimately overlong percussive interlude that cleaved “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.”
For much of the crowd, this opening night was a chance to see if Young Turk — and second-generation Allman — Derek Trucks could cut the mustard as lead guitarist. A few first-set jitters aside, he acquitted himself incredibly well, unspooling incendiary slide solos with virtually no guitar hero posing.
Trucks was particularly impressive during encore versions of “One Way Out” and “Whipping Post,” for which he dispensed with the slide and delivered a surprisingly intricate solo that quoted — among other songs — “My Favorite Things.” While comparatively light on Allman standards, the evening offered enough surprises to keep the fans in the tape-recording section, whose endeavors are actively encouraged by the band, rewinding for weeks to come.