March 10, 2020/Madison Square Garden/New York, NY
The Brothers is like having the Allman Brothers greatest hits performed live in one handy 4-CD package. Given that only one member of the original lineup, Jaimoe, is still alive, this is the second incarnation of The Allman Brothers Band (2001-2014) plus some guests who were not only familiar with the music but had figured in the iconic band’s history. Its history will inevitably mark this as an important date, perhaps the closing chapter, and in more recent terms, one huge last breath before the pandemic shut live music down in 2020.
Some will sneer slightly, wondering how it could be an Allman Brothers Band effort (billed as “The Brothers,” not ABB anyway) without Gregg singing but Warren Haynes knows the material intimately, sings with soul, and met the challenge brilliantly. Paired with Derek Trucks, Derek’s brother, drummer Duane Trucks, Jaimoe, and second incarnation band members, percussionist Marc Quinones and bassist Oteil Burbridge, the group added even more firepower by having keyboardists Reese Wynans and Chuck Leavell join them for this historic concert.
As he’s done for so many of their archival recordings, ABB historian John P. Lynskey provides the liner notes. This is how the show came together. Jaimoe made four phone calls to Haynes, Derek Trucks, Quinones, and Burbridge, the second incarnation group. He said he wanted to do what the five of them had discussed five years earlier, to play at MSG as the ultimate sendoff for ABB. And, as Derek Trucks says, “When Jaimoe asks, you can’t say no.”
Obviously, they had to fill the huge voids left by Gregg in terms of vocals and keyboards, and by original drummer Butch Trucks. So, they recruited Derek’s brother Duane, longtime drummer for Widespread Panic to fill the latter while Haynes hunkered down to find a balance between his own vocal style and one that paid homage to the original versions, emerging from several days of rehearsals to deliver 18 vocals, all but one, as five of the entire 24 were instrumentals. Keyboard substitutes were Wynans who had played with ABB in the early Jacksonville days before their Atlantic label period, and Leavell, who had played with the band from 1972-76 before joining up with The Rolling Stones.
The focus was on the early period from 1969-71 with some nods to the Brothers and Sisters era, the 1989 reunion period, and a few to the second incarnation of the band. Because the core of this group had a long history of playing together, they could improvise at will. In fact, these performances are arguably as incendiary as any ABB recording, regardless of the lineup. It was a strange environment, Covid-19 was reaching its peak, causing much anxiety and unsettled vibe for the capacity crowd. That feeling dissipated quickly and four hours later, those who were privileged to attend, will likely remember this as one of the best shows they have or will ever see.
Haynes and Trucks were so locked in as a guitar tandem riding a line between precision, fire, and fierce solo cutting pushed by the three headed drums/percussionists and twin keyboards. There are several peak moments. “Every Hungry Woman” threatens to just explode off the rails before they rein it in. “No One to Run With” is likely the most inspired version of the tune ever recorded, they take “Dreams” into improvisational jazz territory, “Mountain Jam” has its climactic moments as does “Black Hearted Woman” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” The only tune, quite a statement considering there are 24 in total, that doesn’t quite measure up is “Blue Sky,” where Leavell takes the vocal lead. As we know, he is regarded as a top shelf keyboardist; vocals have never been his strong suit. Fittingly, the band puts a bow on the ABB 50-year history by closing with the iconic “Whipping Post.”
Here’s the set list – This 4-CD package is an absolute must for ABB devotees.
First Set Second Set
|Disc One||Disc Two||Disc Three||Disc Four|
|1. Don’t Want You No More||1. Dreams||1. Mountain Jam||1. Melissa|
|2. It’s Not My Cross to Bear||2. Hot ‘Lanta||2. Blue Sky||2. In Memory of Elizabeth Reed|
|3. Statesboro Blues||3. Come and Go Blues||3. Desdemona||3.No One to Run With|
|4. Revival||4. Soulshine||4. Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More||4. One Way Out|
|5. Trouble No More||5. Stand Back||5. Every Hungry Woman||5. Jaimoe and Warren (greetings)|
|6. Don’t Keep Me Wondering||6. Jessica||6. Midnight Rider|
|7. Black Hearted Woman||7. Whipping Post|
- Jim Hynes
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