On November 19th, 2010 I went to the first of two nights of The Allman Brothers Band at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston. The Allman’s were doing a three-night stand but I had skipped the first night, pulling into town and settling in to my friend’s place for the weekend with plenty of time to get in a little jamming and some dinner before heading down to the show.
I really like those old American theatres. They are so unnecessarily gaudy and ornate and it’s quaint to see how hard they tried to be old and European. I took my soft seat, arced my head all around the grand space and waited for the show to begin.
For decades The Allman Brothers served as a showcase for stylistically singular, blues-based guitar players that moved in and out of the band through a very slow-moving rotating door. The two guitar players that were cycling slowly through the string duties during this era of the Allman’s were Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks.
Warren is a gigantic blues everyman, a blistering lick-pounder that sits in with everybody, every time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at a show and suddenly there is Warren sitting in with his head down and his slide glittering in the spotlight, wailing the pentatonic minor scale loud and proud and forever to a welcoming crowd.
Derek, on the other hand, has managed the unique feat of emulating and channelling the playing of the great Duane Allman whilst simultaneously developing and maintaining his own, completely distinct sound. He funnels the Allman Brothers music through a filter steeped in Indian sitar music and ends up with an anime-like version of the late guitar virtuoso.
On this night the two guitar players did what they do best – they traded off and complemented each other’s unique styles over songs old, tried, and true, and delivered a sound that was exciting, vital, and gloriously familiar. The great, under-rated blues singing of Gregg Allman didn’t hurt one bit as the band delivered Hot ‘Lanta, One Way Out, Statesboro Blues, Highway 61 Revisited, Desdemona, and the great, great Van Morrison hymn Into The Mystic under a huge, psychedelic screen undulating with morphing mushroom-like grids and patterns. Everyone was standing and swaying for the whole show, of course. How could you do anything else?
The dual guitar harmonic glory that is Jessica by itself was worth the price of admission, and perfectly illustrated the beautiful differences between what Warren and Derek each bring to the band. You can pick a favourite and most do (mine is Derek, hands-down), but it’s unquestionable that these guys sound really, really great when they play together.
The band encored with Southbound and after a coda replete with crashing guitars, swirling B3 lines, and three drummers clamouring as one I was out on the street, heading back to buddy’s place and eager for a whole ‘nother show tomorrow night.