The early January announcement of the departure of both Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes from the lineup of The Allman Brothers Band at the end of 2014 represents an inevitable moment for all loyal followers of these musicians. With Haynes’ return to the ABB fold after his 1997 exit to concentrate on Gov’t Mule, he had forged a bond with guitar partner Derek Trucks the likes of which ignited a collective creative spark within the seminal Southern rock band. This partnership soared to the point that it was wholly justifiable to compare the most brilliant moments of playing by this lineup to any pinnacles reached by previous aggregations, even—and perhaps especially notably–to the two-guitar alignment of the sextet including the late Duane Allman and bassist Berry Oakley.
While Allman Brothers Band appearances at their annual Beacon runs in New York city as well as the shed circuit concerts were correlated with the Trucks’ and Haynes’ work outside the group, it became clear as the new millennium evolved that the priorities of the two men had shifted markedly and not just in a musicianly realm. By 2013 both had become fathers, in turn their roles as mentors to the legacy of ABB were diminishing, regardless if their loyalty to the high standards set by the group remained beyond reproach.
The absence of these two men from the ensemble, however, leaves the future of The Allmans far up in the air, if only because, at the forty-five year mark in their history, the remaining members will be hard-pressed to find new partners with whom to collaborate. Momentous decisions aside, there’s no mistaking the vivid memories the two leave behind as they exit and while the significance of their final year together in this one of a kind realm will surely move them to great heights of inspiration, it’s arguable those will surpass those moments from their two-decades plus as members of one of the most influential American bands.
1. October 2, 1989 Memorial Auditorium, Burlington, Vermont: The crowd exploded when ABB’s reunion tour show began, as did most all their shows on the Dreams tour, with the one-two punch of “Don’t Want You No More”/”Ain’t My Cross to Bear,” but the reconstituted Brothers hit their stride with “Statesboro Blues,” not just because it hearkened (loudly) all the way back to At Fillmore East, but because the fluid slide guitar Warren Haynes played was ultimately a marked contrast to more than a few ham-fisted solos offered up by original guitarist Dickey Betts before the evening was over.
2. March 1, 1992 Patrick Gymnasium University of Vermont, Burlington VT: Apart from a heated take on “Nobody Knows,” the acoustic set ABB conducted mid-set was the high point of the show. They demonstrated more imagination in this subdued arrangement of “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” than in the mere tease of “Mountain Jam” that came and went all too fast late in the concert: their sense of adventure was beginning to fade. Nevertheless, the reassembled Brothers had coalesced at this point three years after the regrouping, thanks to the musicianly virtues brought to the band through Warren Haynes. At this point he was beginning to move into a prominent position in this group, having transitioned from Betts’ Pattern Disruptive lineup, after acting as bandleader for outlaw country artist David Allen Coe (where sustained segues were as common as a cover of “Midnight Rider”)
3. March 21, 2003 Beacon Theatre. New York New York: Three years after Warren Haynes returned to ABB as a special guest on their Beacon Theatre run, he and Derek Trucks had worked out a marvelous chemistry for their guitar partnership, an early demonstration of which arose during the harmony guitars on “Don’t Keep Me Wondering,” the ringing likes of which were an early harbinger of righteous comparisons to the Duane Allman/Dickey Betts axis from the early days of ABB.
4. March 22, 2003 Beacon Theatre New York New York: Warren Haynes commanded the stage regularly during his tenures with ABB and more than once this weekend night. More striking even than his rendition of “A Change is Gonna Come,”with horn accompaniment, was when he engaged in a duel with bassist Oteil Burbridge at the two conclusion of an extended take on “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed: ” exploring the imagination in a wide variety of configurations was becoming part and parcel of Allmans shows at this point, making it compelling to catch multiple shows whether in their Big Apple residency or during their summer tours.
5. August 20, 2004 Meadowbrook Farm, Gilford NH: Warren Haynes regularly lead The Allman Brothers into uncharted territory and that included covers of outside material seeming beyond their influences. Just such a choice was Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,” the soul spiritualism of which spoke to the band’s expansion of their repertoire as well as the broadening scope of their improvisation. Nevertheless, a devoted Dickey Betts fan took umbrage at the selection and Haynes’ position with the group in general, ranting enough to cause a physical altercation to take place with another fan, tellingly, near the beer tent at the sylvan venue.
6. August 21, 2004 Tweeter Center, Mansfield MA: The first song Gregg Allman brought to the Allman Brothers Band, “Dreams,” would fade from their set-lists as the nineties rolled on, but the tune rose to prominence again as the group ascended new heights of popularity and creativity during the time Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes co-existed within the lineup. The linking of this seminal tune with “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” late in this second set was a sublime surprise in what one wag called “the Beacon’s greatest hits” show (due to the reappearance of Dr. John’s “Walk On Gilded Splinters” and The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”). The similarity of key and tempo begged the question of why this segue did not occur more often.
7. March 26, 2004 Beacon Theatre, New York, NY: Randy Poe’s biography of Duane Allman, Skydog, includes a forward in which he rightfully references the transition from “High Cost of Low Living” (a standout from the ABB studio album released that spring Hittin’ the Note) into a reprise of “Mountain Jam” which had begun this second set on the final weekend of the year’s Beacon run. A moment of such genuine beauty was rare, but it was this very point where comparable instances began to appear more than a little often during Allman Brothers shows, proof positive that the chemistry between guitarists Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes had brought the group to a point where comparisons to the original lineup were wholly and completely justified.
8. July 9, 2005 Verizon Wireless Arena, Manchester NH: The steep creative ascension of ABB was beginning to dovetail with its commercial viability by the time they played this cookie-cutter venue in mid-summer. Bringing the atmosphere of a blues club to the arena, Gregg Allman led a smoldering rendition of “Stormy Monday” that would convince any attendee he was rediscovering what attracted the song to him in the first place—and that included Derek Trucks who, when it came time for him to solo, stepped closer to the namesake of the band as he began to play, looking over as if to say “I will try my best to match that” and did so, the intensity of his playing combining with an intricacy that earmarked his playing at its best during his tenure with The Allman Brothers Band.
9. July 9, 2005 Verizon Wireless Arena, Manchester NH: During the heyday of the Trucks/Haynes partnership within ABB, it was not uncommon for stellar moments to pepper a given show and this concert stands as a sterling example. Covers abound on the set-list, the most striking of which, on paper and in execution, was the segue Warren Haynes led from Muddy Waters’ “Can’t Lose What You Never Had” into “Why Does Love Got to be So Sad,” the Derek and The Dominos highlight of “Layla” subsequently morphing into a spirited rendition of the Grateful Dead’s “Franklin’s Tower,” sung by bassist Oteil Burbridge, a performance highlight that would in short order become a much-demanded inclusion in Allmans shows. The once and future leader of Gov’t Mule often garners praise for table setting and there’s rarely been a more generous and musically logical one than this.
10. Tweeter Center, Mansfield MA, August 20, 2005: As one set of rumors swirled about why Warren Haynes missed a handful of summer shows, another rash arose based on knowledge of Rolling Stones’ nearby preps for their Bigger Bang Tour, rooted in the fact of keyboardist Chuck Leavell as their musical director: he had to show up for ABB right? Sure enough a keyboard was setup stage left in Mansfield, the seat at which Leavell occupied for four tunes this late summer evening, including, of course, “Jessica,” the original version he helped craft into the classic it remains as Warren and Derek transformed it into a euphoric two guitar showcase as the years went by. Warren is always a gracious host, but never more so this evening with his intros and outros for each of Leavell’s sit-ins, making sure the man got the acclamation he deserved.
11. Champlain Valley Exposition, Essex Jct VT August 25, 2005: ABB concluded their summer tour with a visit to the Green Mountains, the impact of which suffered in part because of commercial concerns: Dixie rock caricatures .38 Special opened the concert, thereby restricting the time allowed for The Allmans to truly extend themselves. Nevertheless, Burbridge took a solo on “Midnight Rider” that caused what is usually a set piece to exploded into fireworks, while, after a clumsy entry into “Mountain Jam” from Trey Anastasio, Derek smoked the Phish guitarist with an incendiary spotlight of his own that left no doubt to whom the Vermont stage belonged.
12. March 30, 2007 Beacon Theatre, New York, NY: Derek Trucks slowly but surely evinced a greater confidence in his position within The Allman Brothers Band as he headed toward the end of his first decade with the group and he brought his skills as a bandleader, honed with his own DTB, into play this evening when his partner Warren Haynes was feeling so under the weather he took hardly a vocal turn. Trucks stepped more than ably into the fore, so much so not even the most loyal ABB fan would be disappointed with a set-list that included staples such as “Dreams” and “Mountain Jam,” plus guest appearances including Eric Krasno on the latter, playing guitar, and a rousing turn through “Turn On Your Lovelight,” where the charter member of Soulive more than ably commandeered the bass.
13. March 31, 2007 Beacon Theatre, New York, NY: Animated and assertive, Haynes was certainly feeling his oats after the previous night’s letdown. He led ABB into a furious jam on “Blackhearted Woman,” during the midst of which he and Trucks, both of whom had played with Phil Lesh & Friends earlier in their careers, slashed their way into “The Other One” for a few moments, the rest of the instrumentalists on stage racing to keep up. If anyone thought it wasn’t possible for ABB to play much harder than that, Trucks upped the ante and intensity level even further with an absolutely violent run through an encore of “Whipping Post.”
14. August 8, 2007 Bank of America Pavilion Boston MA: The first of two nights on the water found The Brothers somewhat static in their presentation, but the ensuing performance was the polar opposite. The intensity of the set was obvious from the start and it rose exponentially as the group pushed themselves to satisfy the loyalty of their Beantown community, the pinnacle of which was the interpolation of Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” within ABB’s signature instrumental “Mountain Jam:” rarely if ever has music caused such tremors in the streets of Boston or the water nearby, effectively rendering the encore of “One Way Out” the definition of anticlimax
15. August 24, 2009, US Cellular Pavilion at Meadowbrook Gilford NH : The celebration of their 40th anniversary, begun in such stellar fashion with a panoply of guests (including Eric Clapton at long last!) during the Beacon run earlier in the year, The Allmans featured the surviving namesake of the group during much of this show. It’s a tribute to the humility of guitarists Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes they can tender stage center to their band mate without losing their own focus during the course of a show: on the contrary, as Gregg effectively punctuated his presence with an obvious tribute to his departed sibling with “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” the guitar team deftly led the band into a take on “Mountain Jam” that ended up a tribute to their founder, the band he began and their roots in the blues via a tease of Jimi Hendrix “Third Stone from the Sun” weaving into Howlin Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning.”
16. November 18th, 2010, Orpheum Theatre Boston, MA The Allman Brothers concluded their short autumn tour of theatres with three sold out shows at The Orpheum in Boston that reasserted their own passion for their music and justified the loyalty of their fan base. Reaffirming the cozy confines of such venues are the ideal locale for an ABB show, Derek Truck and Warren Haynes engaged in a call and response on “Rockin’ Horse” early during the first set on opening night that effectively set the stage for a memorable run that compared more than a little favorably with stints at The Beacon Theatre in recent years: not surprising, given ABB’s loyalty to the Boston fan base and the reciprocal response that has had the seminal Southern rockers playing multiple nights on a regular basis throughout the years.
17. March 8, 2013 Beacon Theatre New York NY: The Allman Brothers adventuresome inclinations dwindled somewhat as they approached the end of the first decade in the new millennium, but not surprisingly so: Derek Trucks began his formal affiliation with wife Susan Tedeschi in TTB, while Warren Haynes continued his allegiance to Gov’t Mule as well as embarking on a solo career. To counteract this reasonable sequence of events, ABB nevertheless continued to try to stretch themselves, opening sets at the Beacon with Miles Davis’ “In A Silent Way” and offering Burbridge’s original instrumental “Egypt” during their shed tours as well. This spring night the mammoth interweaving of “Mountain Jam” and an excerpt from Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland, “1983 (A Merman I Should Turn to Be),” echoed back and forth through Allmans history, following as it did both the rarely played Betts tune “Blue Sky,” Derek Trucks’ spotlight on “Dreams, ” and an encore of “Whipping Post. The performancde confirmed how that signature song of Gregg Allman’s connects with the precocious guitarist.
top photo by Brian Diescher