First the setlist, courtesy the good folks over at Hittin' the Note:
Leave My Blues at Home
Come and Go Blues
Worried Down With the Blues
Blind Willie McTell
Hot 'lanta > All Along the Watchtower > Hot 'lanta (w/Bill Evans, sax)
Working Class Hero
All My Friends
The Needle and the Damage Done
Dreams (w/Nels Cline, gtr) >
Spanish Key (Cline, Evans) >
Mountain Jam (Cline, Evans)
You Don't Love Me
This one was a corker.
The band rolls off into the shuffle that heralds "Done Somebody Wrong," Warren assaying lines over the top. Then he hops half a turn to face Derek, and his slide lines intertwine with Derek's shuffle chording... then they crisscross, and Warren is chording and Derek is sliding. Derek hangs a note and ambles over to Gregg with it, and Gregg is off into the song. It's especially loose, like your favorite pair of old sneakers; a nice start, everyone is firing on all cylinders, with lots of stellar slide work."Leave My Blues at Home" is solid and taut; a fake ending gives way to the drummers. and now the band is shoveling coal onto a hot fire on a positively searing, extended one chord frenzy.
After "Come and Go Blues" Warren offers up "Worried Down." An incendiary Derek excursion pulls applause form the eager house, then a simply sublime Warren leads the band in smoldering, perfect unhurried time. This is a theme all evening-- the band occupying the songs fully in the moment, in no hurry, letting the music come to them with all the time in the world. Next a shimmering "Bag End," with Derek playing a bunch of scratchy slide; then a deep dark soulful "Blind Willie McTell."
On "Revival," after the initial song run-through they open it up, look inside, all curiosity and no rush, Warren offering up a little 'Fly Me to the Moon," till eventually the music becomes a hard jam that charges back into the song riff. "People can you feel it?" is a full-on group happy dance.
Next "Hot 'lanta" comes on, which augers well given what they did with it last Saturday night. Again, after running through the piece, there's basically a hard stop in place of the drum break; Oteil does a snaky dance, taking the band into territory that's kinda "Kind of Bird." Bill Evans has come on, and he blows like crazy, man, skronky dissonant bop sax that eases into "Watchtower." Warren plays the intro lines from the Hendrix version, and they're big and tiny at the same time; he sings the hell out of the vocals. Derek fills the room with tone, then sad urgent leading lines. Evans wanders over center stage from outside right to see what all the fuss is about, and trades call-and-response licks with Derek; then Warren joins the huddle on rhythm; then Warren plays sweet, redolent, resiny licks that give way to the vocals again. (At this point the guy next to me turns and observes, "The pacing is great tonight." he's spot on.) Derek coaxes tiny, Whoville cries of delight, then he's ringing, and now it's a descending run, down, down... and it's back to "Hot 'lanta." Exquisite.
The acoustic set after intermission opens with a nice "Working Class Hero," the John Lennon song, then "All My Friends" and "Needle and the Damage Done," the later featuring some lovely Derek slide work; Gregg handles the vocals, and yeah, he's got a right to sing that one. Then one foot in acoustic, one in electric for "Melissa."
Coming out of "Melissa" there is a thundering rumble approaching off in the distance, like a herd on the move... it is Oteil, who lays out da funk, which gives way to a jaunty jam. Warren adds some slide accents, Derek and the drums lock on, and it is "Rocking Horse." Out of the vocal section Warren's lead is supported by intertwining Derek and Oteil chording and smoking. There's a smash into a stop for the transition, then Oteil rings out on bass as the music falls out of time, until finally Derek saddles up the palomino and takes the band into what I've taken to calling "Derek's Tune," the major key instrumental piece they play in the middle of the "Horse." Then back into "Horse," and Warren piledrives it to a close, but the music doesn't actually stop, it just sort of spills over a little, as Wilco's Nels Cline comes onstage between Derek and Oteil, looking cool and lanky, and once he's all situated, they roll into "Dreams." I'm always impressed when a guest sits in on this one. Right out of the box, Cline takes a beautiful, Allman Brothers-ish solo. Warren throbs with tone, then Nels soars, jerking the neck of his strat (or strat-shaped guitar, I was too far to tell) upward with each bend. Then Derek plays some high loping lines, and then the three-man ring-out. Rock solid...
...out of "Dreams," Oteil throbs and pulsates, Cline tosses off chords, licks, Evans comes out and joins in; Derek and Warren stand at the front of the stage, but don't yet join in on what is now "Spanish Key." (I'm reminded that choosing not to play is a valid artistic choice.) Evans blows, Cline races up and down the neck, all jazzy and watery and electric as the two of them swap lines that must surely have been brewed by bitches. Cline goes all freak jazz, then lays out watery, shimmering sheets, the full band now behind him. It's a great version, rocking around the Oteil/Cline/Evans axis, and the perfect vehicle to show off the chops of these two particular guests... out of "Key," or more like in the middle of it, Butch gives you the bum-bada-bum-bada bum timpani and the music kind of blossoms into "Mountain Jam." Everyone takes a turn, Evans keeping it jazzy, then Derek points over at Oteil, who vamps over the drummers, then joins them for a relatively short drum solo section. Then the guitars (all three of them) enter softly as Oteil returns from the drum kit to the front line, Butch booms, then back into the riffs, and a big noisy closing crescendo.
The encore is a structured "You Don't Love Me," without Evans and Cline, a solid version that hews close to "One Way Out."
All in all this was a great show. The vibe was totally groovy all night, lots of room in the music. Evans on the "Hot 'lanta/Watchtower" piece raised it up a notch, then the extended section in the second set with Evans and Cline made it truly special. Some guests can seem shoehorned into the mix, but tonight music was made that reflected both the core bedrock of what the Allmans do, and the distinct contributions of their guests, and I'd say Cline especially was a revelation.
I'm off now till Wednesday, then at the last three shows.
The High Cost of Low Living
Good Morning Little School Girl
Kind Of Bird
It Makes No Difference (The Juke Horns & Alecia Chakour, vox)
Stand Back (The Juke Horns)
Soulshine (The Juke Horns & James van der Bogert, drums)
The Same Thing (The Juke Horns)
Little Martha (Warren & Derek only)
Old Before My Time (Gregg, Warren, Derek, Marc & Oteil)
Catfish Blues (Gregg, Warren & Derek)
Woman Across The River (Eric Krasno, guitar)
Black Hearted Woman > drums > jam > Black Hearted Woman
Into The Mystic (The Juke Horns)
One Way Out
Back in 2009, I think, Warren compared playing in the Allman Brothers to playing in the Dead by noting that the Dead tends to wait for the magic to come, whereas the Allmans saddle up and go chase after it. I was reminded of that a lot at this show, because there were definitely spotty moments that seemed to lack direction... but invariably, they would suck it up and go to the mojo.
Coming out of the gate, Warren spanks it, ringing out clear as a bell, during "Trouble No More," then Derek plays with a dirty buzz. Warren rings out again on "Midnight Rider." On the outro to 'High Cost," Derek is nice and airy over a gentle Oteil bed, leading into an uptempo, exquisite section. This is a song that starts to get good after the song itself is over.
"Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" comes on with greasy, extended squawky fun before the vocals. Warren double-times it during Derek's solo break, shaking things up; the music tumbles frenetically forward, Warren bending toward Derek, driving him and the band, then back into the goopy molasses cadence for the vocals; the molasses oozes over out of the song and into the coda. Early highlight.
"Kind of Bird" is up next. Warren offers up cascading lines that dance. The music gets a little aimless in the middle, until Warren turns it up to caliente, locking in with Oteil, and suddenly it is incendiary. Warren does a full 360 to cue the drums, then the band skids into a false close, Derek bending out funereal Spanish-sounding notes over the extended grind... Warren puts the song to bed over Oteil's exploration of the "Manic Depression" melody... then bam, they're back hard into the song, and a race to a real close. The second half of the song is another highlight.
For the second night in a row the Asbury Jukes horns come on, beginning with the Band's "It Makes No Difference" (Alecia Chakour, who I don't know, providing backing vocals to Warren's lead.) Then 'Standback," all rubbery and brassy; There's a round of horns, then some Derek sweetness, a mini-Oteil breakdown (my friend comments: "That bass player is SO happy!") Then a sax solo, then Derek, the horn section joining in together underneath, and everyone is back on the riff.
Derek goes to church on "Soulshine;" then, when they could easily have ended the set, they instead explode into "The Same Thing." Some drunken trombone gives way to stinging Warren, who rides the slide all the way up the neck and parks there a good while. Oteil funks it up, he's pure percopation (and I know that's not actually a word.) After Oteil's break the song has been duly funkicized, and the music slams back, first a muted trumpet solo over bass and drums, then unmuted wailing, with the two guitarists choogling together in hard rhythm. Then Warren and Derek trade licks like snapping towels, faster and faster till your head would just about like to explode; then everyone slams back into the brassy riff to bring the set to a close. Obviously, another highlight.
Derek and Warren begin after the break with a lovely take on "Little Martha." Gregg joins and sings "Old Before My Time," and then "Catfish Blues," which for my money is the standout of the acoustic set. It's the best Gregg has sounded all night, and it's all slow, bluesy and sweet.
The electric set commences with your basic "Statesboro Blues," after which Eric Krasno comes on for "Woman Across the River." Krasno lays out some easy, snappish stellar blues. Most of the house misses Warren's introduction, but halfway in the guy in front of me turns and says, "Whoever he is, he sure is good." Soon there's a manic guitar three-way that morphs into a three-man one-way, driving the song home. "Black Hearted Woman" gives way to an abbreviated drum solo, leading back into an extended jam on the waltz-time outro, then Warren plays the chorded phrase that flips the music over into the "Other One" jam, but Derek plays some "Third Stone" lines over the top so it's kind of a hybrid of "Third Stone" and "The Other One"... then the transition phrase again and back into the frantic waltz. It is big and kickass, especially post-drums.
The Jukes are back again for "Into the Mystic," with Derek playing some sorrowful slide that makes your heart feel like it's raining. Then the crowd-pleasing "One Way Out" closes the set. For the encore, the band comes on sans Gregg and lays into some constructive noodling, creating a misty space; finally Gregg takes his place and it's "Whipping Post," a rather less urgent version at first. Off the vocal section Warren rings and shimmers, then takes the band out for a brisk walk with a major key vibe; I ride around on the music a while, until suddenly noticing it has come all the way around again to the Post, as they smash into "Sometimes I feel..."
Good show. Not without a few hiccups, but then, the highs were exhilarating.
(Bill Graham intro)
Come and Go Blues
Down Along the Cove
Sailing Across the Devil's Sea
Blind Willie McTell
One Way Out (w/A.J. Ghent)
Dark End of the Street
Done Somebody Wrong
Hot 'lanta > All Along the Watchtower > Hot 'lanta
Southbound (Ghent, Brecker)
Family business had called me away the night prior, so this was my first show of the run. The first set, I thought, was generally pedestrian, with some soaring during the instrumental; otherwise it was just the basic blues, well-played. But in the second set they brought the dark magic...
The band comes on to a recording of Bill Graham's intro, I think, to the very last Fillmore show, and opens with "Statesboro Blues." Butch Trucks and Mark Quinones have swapped positions, with Butch now occupying the center seat in the back line, and Marc on your right. Warren plays some wet slide before handing off to Derek. "Come and Go Blues" features some nice, velvety Derek lines, with Warren taking a majestic lead on the break. Then Warren sings "Down Along the Cove," which basically gets the "Woman Across the River" treatment, but slower; the basic Allman Brothers Band smokehouse blues.
In "Standback" the band parks on the one chord, and Derek slowly goes to town, stirring up hot fury, Warren totally locked into him on rhythm; then the bouncy riff into the close. It's an early highlight. Warren plays some big slide in the middle of "Sailing Across the Devil's Sea"; then a sparse take on "Blind Willie McTell," with Derek testifying over some churchy organ.
In 'Bag End," Warren plays all pretty over some solid boiler room drumming, then he makes a deal with the devil; Oteil locks on, squaring off at Warren, swaying side to side from the waist like he's made of rubber. Then the band stills, and Derek paints the air, brush strokes giving way to rain drops. Then he takes the band on a little happy march back to the theme... but Warren doesn't wanna go there. They tease all around it, then bring the song to a close without actually returning to the theme at all. Probably the highlight of the set. Then AJ Ghent comes out on sacred steel for a smashing "One Way Out," clearly a crowd favorite, to bring us to intermission.
After intermission comes the acoustic set. Derek and Warren start out alone, with "Old Friend." Gregg, Oteil and Marc join for "Dark End of the Street," Warren providing nice harmony vocals on the chorus. Then "Done Somebody Wrong," with a clean, swinging sound, and some nice lead work from Derek.
Now it gets interesting.
The band offers up "Revival," generally a short song with a long jam. They meander out of the first run-through, Derek explores the "Jessica" lick, then quotes "Fly Me to the Moon." Warren falls into a call-and-response with Oteil, the drums percolating underneath; then a "Norwegian Wood" tease from Warren, then back into the song to close. The improvisational middle section is new, and decidedly different from the piece they'd been playing in that spot since '05. Highlight.
Randy Brecker joins the band on outside right, for "Hot 'lanta." Which is exciting, because Warren had been quoted as saying this was a song that was going to get a new workout during the run. They work through to the drum break, but the drums come haltingly, with more and more space between the beats... Oteil goes into a bass vamp... Derek squeezes out sheets of slide over the top... Brecker's trumpet joins the party, a party that is all midnight purple, jazzy, and kind of blue... Derek and Brecker lock into a 2-horn interplay, only of course Derek's horn is a guitar... then easing into a slow "All Along the Watchtower," with Warren singing. The pace is such that at any moment, they could seamlessly roll over into "Hit the Road Jack" (they don't, but you think about it.) Brecker brings clear. piercing brass. Derek takes a nice, long hot soak in the song, then moves into bright, shimmering tone. Back to the vocal, then Warren takes the band down, down to a misty, quite place, playing descending lines, the band is on it with him, the music coalescing back into the "Hot 'lanta" riff. Now comes that drum break, and back into the song's close. There are two exclamation points in my notebook, then the word "outstanding."
So now we're in that dark, misty, indigo jazzy space, Brecker still on, so when the band almost falls into "Dreams," it feels pretty obvious, by which I mean, obvious-good. Gregg's organ throbs, Warren soars. Brecker invokes Miles, blows full, his shiny brass tone filling the house; this mofo is a one man horn section all by himself. Derek comes in, laying out cascades of tone; then Derek and Brecker howl together at the moon, then bang! Back into the return riff. Derek ambles over to Gregg, tosses some slide at him, counts him back in on the vocals. Epic.
Out of "Dreams," Derek messes around a bit with "Little Martha," until Butch pounds in his boom boom cadence to"Mountain Jam." But before they fall into the theme, there's a stab at "Birdland" featuring Derek, Oteil and Brecker. Then Brecker plays the Jam theme melody, and breaks back into a vamp. leading into sweet Warren lines. No one's touched the "Mountain Jam" theme in a good 6 mnutes, they haven't really played it full on at all. We're pretty clear this is indeed the Jam, but really it is more a battle between "Mountain Jam" and Kind of Blue or "Birdland," and it isn't clear who's winning. Actually, it sounds like everybody's winning. The entire front line turns to face the drums, Oteil goes into a stop time riff with Marc as Derek and Warren walk off. Oteil syncopates, the drummers follow. Oteil goes into an extended, funky workout that hits me like a massage chair; suddenly my back feels better. Then he scat-sings along with his bass, before giving way to the drum solo section (and joining it.) Out of the drums, now the band is full-on into "Mountain Jam," arguably the first time they've actually played it as opposed to hinted at it all song. A shorter than usual take, but unique, jazzy and glorious.
Brecker and Ghent are on for the encore, and I've been to this rodeo often enough to expect "Southbound." THe drummers suggest it, but Derek and Warren trade very un-Southbound staccato licks, and Gregg isn't onstage. There's an extended vamp on a single chord, finally Warren turns to face the drums, hand aloft, and counts 1, 2, 3 on his fingers to finally count in "Southbound." I look over, and Gregg has taken his place. It's an extended take and more funk, less country than usual, which is to the good. In the middle Warren grabs a verse, then Gregg picks it up as they derive to a close. It's a song I don't usually feature much, but this is a particularly good version.
Both guests were great, but Brecker especially was notable; on for maybe the last third of the show, during which he took them into a decidedly jazzy mode, and the band was solidly up to the task. From "Revival" on the music was fresh and new yet somehow ageless and timeless.