Photos and review by Ray Chelstowski
Madison Square Garden has been host to some of music’s most important events. George Harrison’s Concert For Bangladesh was held here as was the post September 11 Concert For New York City. The Police ended their reunion tour at MSG and countless others like Phish, Billy Joel, Elton John and The Grateful Dead have set performance records at the historic venue. So it was only fitting that when The Allman Brothers were looking for a stage to conduct their 50 anniversary, one-night only performance, the Garden would become the obvious choice.
It didn’t disappoint.
The last original lineup of Warren Haynes and Derek Truck on guitars, Oteil Burbridge on bass, and Jaimoe and Marc Quinones on percussion was augmented with some very talented folks. Reese Wynans, best known for his work with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, stepped in to handle Hammond B3 duties. It’s ironic because Wynans was Duane Allman’s first choice for that seat when he was starting the band. In that sense this was a full circle homecoming. Chuck Leavell who started working with the band after Duane’s passing was there on piano. And perhaps the most impressive addition was Duane Trucks, Derek’s younger brother and current drummer in the band Widespread Panic. As Allman historian John Lynskey so properly put it, “Duane plays like his uncle did 20 years ago!” His steady, fluid, nuanced style of play was present throughout and provided a firm border to this all out jam.
The concert left almost no stone unturned. Across the span of four hours the band played 25 songs. Right out of the gate The Brothers proved that they were there to conduct business and opened with “Don’t Want You No More/Ain’t My Cross To Bear” followed by “Statesboro Blues”, “Revival”, and “Trouble No More”, the first track the band ever recorded together.
The band really seemed to hit their stride when Chuck Leavell took the stage. There his piano added a balance to the sound and made songs really sparkle — especially those from the album Brothers & Sisters. He also better allows for the band to explore some of their jazz roots which they did so masterfully on the extended version of “Desdemona”.
Over the years Warren Haynes has publicly thanked Gregg Allman for his generosity in allowing Haynes to share lead vocals, especially on songs like “Soul Shine”. That made having Warren hold down almost all vocals last night so seamless. He was in fantastic voice throughout. At moments, especially on “Come And Go Blues” it was as if he was literally channeling Gregg Allman.
Derek Trucks was however the real scene stealer. His guitar tone was so full-bodied, so deep and at times it covered the Garden like a warm blanket. His virtuosity was on full display and his ability to operate in the moment and be nimble was a thrill to witness.
There were few hiccups last night. The band seemed to wrestle a bit with things between songs and the monitors at the Garden blew early on. Those there to get a closer look at the hands of these masters will have to wait for what can only be a forthcoming expansive commemorative DVD/CD/LP set. However, pulling off a one-time event of this scale is an impossible task and these talented musicians put together this performance after only five days of rehearsal – a real testament to their musicianship. For those behind the scenes, their timetables were as tight and the great work they did to ensure that things went off without a hitch was beyond impressive.
The show closed with some touching remarks from the ever gentile Jaimoe and two encore close outs in “Midnight Rider” and “Whipping Post”. For those who cast aside any fears of a possible pandemic to be there — this was a musical moment that will forever be etched into their memory.
It’s hard to believe that this is it. However, the music of this extended family lives on through the ongoing work they do with bands like the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Kenny Wanye Shepherd, Joe Bonamassa, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Widespread Panic, The Doobie Brothers, Government Mule, The Dead & Company and more. The Allman family tree has many branches. Fifty years later one legendary room found a way to gather almost 20,000 people and get them to boogie once more to the music of legends and the magic of peaches and mushrooms.
Set 1: 7:33 pm
Don’t Want You No More
Ain’t My Cross To Bear
Trouble No More
Don’t Keep Me Wondering
Black Hearted Woman
Will The Circle Be Unbroken
Set 2: 9:43 pm
Ain’t Waistin’ Time No More
Every Hungry Woman
In Memory of Elizabeth Reed
No One To Run With
One Way Out
Jaimoe addresses the crowd