Allman Betts Band Throwdown Blues Infused Night With Marc Ford & River Kittens (SHOW REVIEW/PHOTOS)

If you were in the audience for any of the Allman Betts Band tour stops this year, if it was anything like their Baton Rouge show at the Manship Theatre on October 7th then it was nonstop rafter-shaking, blues-infused jamming, and from-the-gut singing from beginning to end – and this included the openers the River Kittens and Marc Ford as well. It was a total package, something we all like when we dish out the bucks for a concert night.

The Allman Betts Band – featuring three sons of legendary Allman Brothers Band members alongside four other very talented musicians – know how to bring good rock & roll to the people. Playing a sold-out make-up show that the pandemic had forced them to cancel back in 2020, the band didn’t play like a bunch of musicians who were nearing the end of a long tour. With one night left before they could go home to their families, they were both excited and sad to see it coming to an end … at least for a little while. As Devon Allman proclaimed during the elongated encore, “We don’t want it to end.” So they kept playing.

With two studio albums under their belts, ABB came into Baton Rouge with plenty of original material to choose from. “Down To The River” especially was a house-burner that had Marc Ford joining Allman, Duane Betts, Berry Oakley Jr, John Ginty, Johnny Stachela, John Lum and R. Scott Bryant onstage. Allman’s funky solo segued into a quiet hush that built into a steamy, exotic jam that Ford took over before culminating with a conversation between guitars and organ that was absolutely delicious. The crowd needed no coaxing to sing along. “That’s how you do it,” Allman said with a smile as the audience got louder and louder.

Oakley’s composition, “The Doctor’s Daughter,” which he’d originally written about a friend who died, was another big highlight of the evening. Oakley put down his bass to play keyboards and sing lead on this surreal-sounding number that eventually burst into a holy communion of guitars. Betts shined during “Rivers Run” on vocals as well as on a beautiful acoustic guitar, which he played several times during the course of the concert. And Stachela just blew us all away not only while playing slide but just his soloing and how it took on a life of its own before intertwining with Allman, Betts, Oakley, and Ginty. The culminating sound was like a warm fire in your veins.

“I always wanted to change the landscape every few years, just to kind of challenge myself and keep it fresh,” Allman told me during an interview last year. “But this one really feels like home.” Having known each other since their early teens, Betts had hooked up with the Devon Allman Project for a tour in 2018, and that naturally led to them putting together something more solid. Hence, the Allman Betts Band was born. 

“I knew it would make people happy and you want to make people happy but you want to make yourself happy too,” Betts said in a 2018 interview about the tour. “With this kind of coming together naturally and organically, it feels really good and the right time to do it rather than forcing it or doing some kind of contrived project.” And bringing in Oakley was a no-brainer. With him, they had the core heartbeat. “We just want to continue a tradition of music that is meaningful and that moves people and makes people feel good,” said Allman.

Marc Ford

Feeling good was how you felt once this show finally came to its end. One lady put her hands in prayer mode and looking upward told me it was absolutely wonderful. She then in turn asked me how I liked the two young ladies who opened, to which I gave her a double thumbs-up. Hailing from St Louis, Allie Vogler and Mattie Schell – aka The River Kittens – sang in beautiful harmonies with a sweet magnolia essence that swirled around their mandolin and acoustic guitar melodies. For five songs, including a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Those Memories,” they emphasized singer-songwriter goodness. That innocence may be shielding some real sass, as their songs “Dressin’ On The Side” and “Not Your Babe” indicated in their songwriting and frisky vibe. Their debut, Soaking Wet, is out now on Allman’s Create Records label.

Marc Ford was the night’s middle man who brought a firestorm with his guitar for nine songs and made you remember just how damn good he is on that guitar. He dropped down into blues mode one minute, into a psychedelic hemisphere the next, and finally blending it all into one mighty tsunami. From “Smoke Signals” to “Steady Rollin’ Man” to “Shalimar Dreams” it was one WOW after another. Ford never changed guitars and for the first half of his set it was just him, Oakley sitting in on bass and drummer Phil Jones. The other members of ABB, wearing Ford’s tour shirt, Marc F’N Ford, ventured in throughout before everyone crashing the last song, since this was his last date on the tour with them. You just couldn’t ask for more from the former Black Crowe. He was 100% on fire.

But the night belonged to the ABB guys. Holding their legacies very close to their hearts, they included such Allman Brothers Band stalwarts as “Midnight Rider” and “Blue Sky” in their set. Allman paid special tribute to both his parents during the encore by performing “Multi-Colored Lady,” a song his father Gregg had written for his mother. It garnered them their second standing ovation of the night. The first came after “Pale Horse Rider” from their Bless Your Heart album. The night finally came to an end with a holy smokes rendition of “Gambler’s Roll” featuring stellar Betts and Stachela guitar solos and Allman on vocals. They definitely made their pappies proud on that one while sealing their status as their own entity. 

The Allman Betts Band won’t be off the road for too long. They have only a few weeks to chill before they start the Allman Family Revival shows with guests such as Luther Dickinson, Lilly Hiatt, Robert Randolph, Jimmy Hall, the River Kittens, and some extra special guests, such as Samantha Fish and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, in different cities. They are the real deal, folks. Once you see them, you’ll become a lifelong fan.

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