072696 The Allman Brothers Band/Big Sugar, Toronto, ON

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Back in 1996 I was still a young pup in the concert-going world.  Sure I had seen a half-dozen Dead shows, a couple of Phish and Allman Brothers concerts, and I had accumulated a few fistfuls of ticket stubs from artists that would soon come to be referred to as classic rock, but I was still too young to realize that a guy could have an off night.

Sure, by this point I had played a few hundred gigs of my own and though I certainly had my share of off nights I never considered that this could or should happen to established (read: famous) artists.  Of course the possibility of putting in a less-than-stellar performance is greatly increased when you play different songs and arrangements on a night-to-night basis, but like I said, back in the mid-nineties I was still too green to have figured this out.

Case in point: Big Sugar opening for the Allman Brothers at the Molson Amphitheatre on the shores of Lake Ontario on July 26th.

Now, anyone who followed the final quarter-century of Gregg Allman’s life knows that he struggled with a lot of problems, some the result of a lifetime of hard living, some the result of an indiscriminating Mother Nature.  Over the years I have seen some fine, fine Allman Brothers concerts and heard Gregg Allman at what sounded to me like his best, but I have also seen him barely able to keep himself upright at the keyboard, sometimes even performing with an oxygen tank at his side.

Anyway, I remember being so disappointed with this show (not Big Sugar – they delivered a great opening set) that I swore off of the Allman Brothers for a long time to come.  It’s really a shame; I’m sure Gregg must have been tired or something, and young cocky me figured that meant the band was over.

What an idiot.  I skipped out on so many Allman shows over the next few years…I think it wasn’t until they played the Ottawa Bluesfest that I saw them again, and of course that show made me realize how stupid I had been.

Years of experience teaches one that hit-hit-miss shows are still worth buying tickets for.  If only I had started out with all those years of experience; I would have learned this lesson much sooner.

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