The Brothers – Celebrating 50 Years of The Allman Brothers Band At Madison Square Garden, Tuesday, March 10th, Review
The Brothers are the latest iteration of the Allman Brothers, six years after their final performance , and three years since Butch Trucks and Gregg Allman died, performing one mo’ gin on the 50th Anniversary of the Allman Brothers Band eponymous debut album. It was better than the October 27th. 2014, penultimate show at Beacon Theatre (here), but not as good as some of the other times I’ve seen seen the best jam band ever (here), some people think second to the Grateful Dead, and you can understand why, but as a blues band, ABB have no equal in the world of jam.
The problem with the Brothers is the singing. With Warren Hayes taking the vast majority of the leads you begin to seriously jones on Gregg, who also had a raspy voice, but had pure soul and anyway, had other singers to perform the chores from time to time. Warren needed to bring in a ringer, maybe Susan Tedeschi, maybe the protean whinging of Dave Matthews. Levon Helms would have been perfect in that role but he made it to the pearly gates before Gregg did, so maybe Amy Helm (as long as we are daydreaming: maybe the late soul blaster Sharon Jones) The problem with Govt Mule is Warren’s singing, and the problem with The Brothers is Warren’s singing.
But it is Warren who has stepped up as the Brothers nominal leader and the first set was a testament much more to Haynes blues rhythm guitar chops than Derek Trucks melodic electric picking, as they played off each other in absolute the sum being much more than the parts. The first two songs, and the first four of seven songs , were from the first album. Warren took lead on the lot, and Derek remained background here as the band tightened up their skills and performed electric southern boogie and blues for the entire first hour, before Warren stole it only more so with the highlight of the first set, the only time Haynes reached Dickey Betts greatness in his entire career, an epic “Soulshine”. Starting punctually at 730pm, The Brothers performed for 90 minutes of high octave blues groove with three drummers (somethings never change), Jaimoe, Marc Quinones and Duane Trucks (Derek’s brother from Widespread Panic -who take the Americana side to extremes), and Keyboardist Reese Wynans, plus sometimes piano joining Chuck Leavell, but they came together to present an earlier ABB -this was the 70s rocker, Duane in leather jacket and boots ABB, and though everybody looked their age, they sounded like a return to Muddy Waters, the tribute of a tribute.
If the first set was deep blues work outs, the second channeled Dickey Betts pastoral mind enlargement, an 18 minute “Mountain Jam” followed by a 13 minute “Blue Skies”. The former takes an improvisation (recorded for Eat A Peach) working of Donovan’s drug induced hallucination about the nature and adaptability of reality,”There Is A Mountain,” and runs with the ear worm, it sounds like the Dead circa Working Man’s Dead, it is as elegant as we have ever heard Derek, soaring through the melody while both Haynes and bassist Oteil Burbridge, as well as the percussionists, provide him with somewhere to fall back on. “Blue Skies” is where the lack of singers came back to harm em, Chuck’s singing was not good, and the only thing that saved him was Warren refusing to leave him alone, and constant returning to push the singing. The entire half an hour was an inverted first set, the first half hour took you not to 1970 but to the 1990s with Derek playing Dickey Bets and Warren being Warren. The interplay of Derek and Warren is exactly what would give ABB their last act. Derek is no Duane, but he is sure the next best thing, and he has a strange, workmanlike, anti-rock star lead guitarist, and much more a blue collar taking care of business like vibe, and none of this makes him less than one of our top five electric guitar player.
The set went deeper, with a powerful, art rocking “Desdemona” which sounded like post-punk goes South, and then an additional hour before they fulfilled Warren’s (in one oh his few comments to us) promise of a long night of music. Towards the end, the encores “Midnight Rider” and “”Whipping Post,” seemed a lot more obvious than the evening had been, and the forty minute intermission between sets was 25 minutes too long, but if the reason for being was more than to celebrate the greatest jam band of all time, than it succeeded in the promise of an Allman Brothers Band without Allman in the name.
When I first heard about the evening, I assumed it would be filled with ABB members past and present. One thought Devon and Duane, if not Dickey, would have been there to pay their respects to their fathers, memories would be shared, etc. That wasn’t what The Brothers had in mind, The Brothers had an alternative world where ABB didn’t call it quits, that they continued performing without Gregg and Butch, and this is what it would be like. Warren would be the face, Derek the muscle, and the rest of the band would fall behind them as they excavated the catalog.
The problem is that despite Tedeschi Trucks Band, Allman-Betts Band, and Govt Mule, nobody has managed to replace ABB. MSG was entirely sold out, behind the stage as well, 20K seats for a band without a leader and so much so they removed he leaders names from the band. Can you imagine Govt Mule selling out the venue? They need a singer, they need a way to include Devon and Duane, and that’s all they need for the Allman Brothers Band to be reborn as the The Brothers. It’s gonna happen, and on the strength of last night’s concert, it deserves to happen.March Madness in 2021!