Summer after summer in the 1990s, the Allman Brothers have been a sure thing, but on the occasion of their 30th anniversary, they pushed the performance a little bit harder, and the results were stupendous.
Reason No. 1: In Derek Trucks, nephew of drummer Butch and leader of his own band prior to joining the Allmans in March, gives co-leader Dicky Betts an extra push during instrumental breaks, presenting original challenges to which Betts responds to time and again. Different from former guitarist Warren Haynes, who brought an overbearing muscular quality to new material but stuck to re-creations of Duane Allman’s work, Trucks gives even the warhorses such as “Statesboro Blues” a personal twist — for such a young player, he has considerable command of the slide guitar and this genre. Show toppers were extended versions of the chestnut “Blue Sky” and 1975 instrumental “High Falls.”
Reason No. 2: Gregg Allman has given up smoking and is singing considerably more than he did on his last two visits. Arguably the best white blues singer alive, he made a strong case on emotional, driving versions of “Please Call Home” (from his 1973 solo debut), “Black Hearted Woman” and the closer of the 135-minute show, “Whipping Post.”
As always, the band gave a thorough overview, including material from virtually every album, this time slightly favoring their 1969 debut and 1970’s “Idlewild South.” The Allmans have also added an intermission to the proceedings (more time to check out NASCAR gear?), which provided some breathing room before the show’s acoustic portion, which on this occasion started with “Seven Turns.” (In the past, an uncomfortable shifting of players and instruments was required.)
Band premiered one new number, “J.J.’s Alley,” overloaded with winding guitar riffs in search of a chord progression. While it sounded distinct from the rest of the material, its essence was uniquely Allman, further proof that no other band possesses the magic of this still vital unit.