They could have called it "almost peakin' at the Beacon."
Last year was a very tumultuous one for the Allman Brothers
family. It began with the forced departure of one of the original brothers, Dicky Betts, due to his personal problems, a move that almost seems hypocritical considering the band's history. More tragedy followed with the death of Allen Woody, the Gov't Mule
who played bass with the Allman's during their comeback in the early Nineties.
So with their annual run at New York City's Beacon Theater, Greg Allman and company had an opportunity to put all that behind them and show weary fans that the loss of Betts wouldn't affect the band's playing, especially with Gov't Mule frontman and former Brother Warren Haynes and guitar prodigy Derek Trucks
manning the guitars.
Trucks, who is the nephew of drummer Butch Trucks, has all the makings to be a guitar hero. Plus he looks and sounds like Duane Allman, and he's only twenty-one. But onstage with a group of seasoned veterans, the young Trucks appeared somewhat shaken. With such big shoes to fill, and with Betts gone, his playing was affected. Trucks' troubles also stem from the interaction that Betts had with every other guitar player he played with. Betts is known for a distinctive voice, both vocally and on his instrument. His is a laid back, "good time feel" that was always complimented with a grittier blues player, such as Duane Allman and later, Haynes. The problem with this outing was that both Haynes and Trucks have adopted an edgy sound that limits the band as a whole. As a result, songs like "Blue Sky" and "Jessica," Allman Brothers' staples, were not played on opening night. Instead, the band stuck to mostly slow blues tunes and obscure songs from their vast catalogue.
As a result, the opening night of the two-week run, dubbed "Peakin' at the Beacon," proved to be a tremendous disappointment in the light of years past. The extended jams ran a little too long and songs never quite reached an apex, usually trailing off lazily at the end.
The few classics that they managed to weave into their set (like "Midnight Rider" and "Dreams") were among the set's few highlights. But even these seemed lacking, considering the deep catalogue of classics the band has to their credit. The ABB closed their second set with the anthemic roar of one of the band's earliest gems, "Whipping Post." Trucks' and Haynes' picking finally meshed and had the whole crowd wound up and dancing in the isles, as they perfectly played off of each other's cues. Allman's voice, better with age, also proved to be a high point.
Throughout their three-decade plus run, the Allmans have played better. They have the ability to create well crafted, jazz influenced blues jams. With one night down, and two weeks to go, these road worn troopers have a chance to redeem themselves during this extended stay. Hopefully they can shape up and rise above the absence of the most recently departed "Brother."
Written by STEVE FLORIO
for RollingStone.com News