For the legendary Allman Brothers Band, the weight of their legacy is, at times, too much of a cross to bear. The progenitors of southern rock, known for their ensemble prowess and fiery group improvisations, were not in top form under the stars in their recent engagement at the Greek.
As they took to the stage with “Hot ‘Lanta,” an instrumental off the classic “Live at the Fillmore” album, the Allmans found themselves at a critical juncture in their career. After working very hard for the past three years to re-establish themselves as America’s preeminent blues-based rock band, they seemed to be facing the question, “Is this what we really want?”
Playing a set that delved adventurously into new and as-yet unrecorded material slated for an upcoming studio album, the Allmans did display moments of sheer brilliance.
Band namesake Gregg Allman belted and growled from behind his Hammond B-3 with the distinctive vocal dignity that has earned him the reputation as one of his generation’s finest blues singers, and co-founding guitarist Dickie Betts started the evening afire.
Betts’ star shone most brightly during the band’s midset acoustic interlude, during which he played some truly masterful bottleneck guitar.
However, when the Allmans returned to their electric instrumentation, Betts’ fires began to cool, and so did the band.
As the set drew to a close, and for reasons unknown, the usually gracefully forceful Betts had taken to sitting on a stool, standing briefly and only at the end of his own solos.
By the evening’s finale of “Whipping Post,” Betts was so unenthused that he chose to leave the stage early and surrender his position of ensemble leadership to relative newcomer Warren Haynes, whose masterful slide guitar carried the Allmans.
He and new bassist Allen Woody brought enthusiasm and adventurousness to material that in less able hands would more than likely sound merely retreaded.
Woody’s new approach to the Allman classics was best exemplified by his use of an 18-string bass for the aforementioned “Whipping Post.” Immediately recognizable by its bass intro, in Woody’s hands, the song took on new life while remaining true to its original spirit.