By Chris M. Junior
Some bands put on a show. And in many cases, the over-the-top lighting and special effects are meant to compensate for shaky performance abilities and/or a limited back catalog.
Then there are bands that perform concerts. The focus is entirely on the music and executing a wide range of material in masterly fashion, to a point where the musicians are so locked in they almost seem unaware an audience is watching them.
The Allman Brothers Band, as one would expect, was all business Nov. 13 at Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City — and business was very good.
The main story heading into the ABB’s fall tour was the health of singer/keyboardist Gregg Allman, who had a successful liver transplant in June. With his long hair pulled back into a ponytail, the trim Allman paced himself and performed in a measured fashion throughout the lean, no-frills Atlantic City gig. He kept his banter with the crowd to a bare minimum, and when he did speak, he made it count. After a moving version of “Soulshine,” he announced that the band would be taking “a little intermission.” Guitarist Derek Trucks had a quick word with Allman, who with a smile told the crowd there wouldn’t be a break after all, prompting a few laughs from the audience.
The guitar tandem of Trucks and Warren Haynes is about as serious (and good) as it gets. Usually with their heads down and displaying poker faces, they fired off a steady flow of guitar licks and solos, playing in unison as well as taking individual turns in seamless fashion. Where most bands are lucky to have one guitarist who plays halfway-decent slide, the ABB has two top-shelf slide players, and they not only pay tribute to the work and legacy of the late Duane Allman but also have their style and identities.
After all these years, it still seems strange for Dickey Betts to not be in The Allman Brothers Band, but it’s become difficult to imagine the group without Trucks or Haynes. In addition to his guitar skills, Haynes has a much stronger voice than Betts, and Haynes’ vocal grit and soul was evident whether he was taking a lead verse on “Soulshine” or harmonizing with Gregg Allman on the classic “Midnight Rider.”
The Allman Brothers Band’s fall tour includes stops in Albany, N.Y. (Nov. 15), Mashantucket, Conn. (Nov. 16), Boston (Nov. 18-20) and Manhattan (Nov. 22).