HT’s Stuart Raper, was in attendance at last week’s Allman Brothers Band Orpheum run and will file reports on each show. Monday we shared his take on the November 29 run opener, on Tuesday he wrote about the “Eat A Peach” performance on November 30, yesterday Stuart recapped the penultimate Orpheum run show from December 2 and today he reviews the finale…
The Allman Brothers Band returned to the Orpheum Theatre on Saturday night to close out this run of shows with a bang. From the first B3 notes of Hot’Lanta it was obvious that Gregg Allman was ready to play, and so were his bandmates. They rocked out another Gilded Splinters and Trouble No More before leading into a nice Come and Go Blues in which Gregg sounded great after his issues on the previous night. Guitarist Warren Haynes stepped up to the microphone next for a downright nasty Sky Is Crying. He ripped on guitar and projected the beautiful lyrics all through the Orpheum, treating the old Elmore James song to his gravelly bellow.
[Photo by Rob Chapman from March]
But not even Haynes’ growl could be heard over the crowd’s cheering once Derek Trucks stepped up for his solo on this song. As bassist Oteil Burbridge backed him up with a deep bluesy pocket, Trucks attacked those strings in a blaze that left everybody in the room nearly breathless. When the audience finally mustered the energy to cheer, they didn’t stop for a good 10 seconds as Haynes sang the final verse and chorus. All in all, this was one of the most memorable versions of Sky Is Crying I’ve seen played in a while.
Egypt and All Along the Watchtower segued into one another beautifully, taking on a different voice than the rocking sound of Every Hungry Woman, which preceded them. Here drummer Jaimoe and Oteil really set the tone as they laid down a jazzy groove for their bandmates to follow. Warren crooned out a great Watchtower, the band’s first version of the Dylan classic in four years, while everyone swayed to the beat of Jaimoe’s ride cymbal. The Allmans picked up the pace to close out the first set with a solid One Way Out, but there were many surprises left to follow.
The second set had many highlights. Gregg did a nice Melissa, followed by solid versions of Revival and Gamblers Roll, but the Into The Mystic really stood out. They played the extended version, filled with soul and lovely harmonies. Sailin’ Cross The Devil’s Sea was gritty and rockin’ with a psychedelic edge. But some of the best was still to come… drummer Butch Trucks stepped up to his Tympani and signaled the opening of Mountain Jam as the rest of the band chimed in. The two guitars milked the abstract intro with Derek quoting traces of Little Martha. Oteil picked away, driving the groove as they quoted the opening passage then Derek was off to the races for an epic solo. His fellow instrumentalists gave him plenty of room to stretch out and he ran through every register of the fretboard with and without his slide. He approached the song like an old jazz player, building his chops more and more, “hittin’ the note” before laying back and making room for his fellow guitarist to respond.
Gregg took a nice B3 solo as well while the percussionists and bass drove the rhythm through each of the song’s movements. In the middle, Warren started picking some slower, bluesier leads which he lead into a down and dirty take on the old Howlin’ Wolf classic Smokestack Lightning, nailing the classic Hubert Sumlin guitar line that made the tune famous. Warren howled into the microphone over Derek’s slide. As they laid down the groove I started reminiscing about seeing the Brothers do this song at the Beacon in March when Hubert sat in with his Stratocaster. I remembered the smiles on all three guitar players’ faces as they beamed at one another every time they each played a lick. Derek and Warren were enamored to perform with one of their heroes and Hubert humbly honored to see his legacy passed on, one of my fondest musical memories. When I got back from Boston I heard Hubert had passed away. Very thankful that the Brothers let us all celebrate his song together the night before he left us prior to the Mountain Jam return. The band went back into the song’s closing themes and closed out the second set with harmonious intensity.
After the Mountain Jam/Smokestack magic, the Allmans still had some more surprises left up their sleeves. Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes and Marc Quinones returned to the stage after the break unaccompanied, Warren holding an acoustic guitar. For the first time in Allman Brothers history, the “trio” performed John Lennon’s Working Class Hero, stripped down and soulful. Warren strummed the chords with Derek’s slide playing over them as he sang the lyrics, softer at first, then grew more and more powerful with each verse and chorus. Quinones gave it a percussive backbeat and they finished this debut cover strong. A song that’s just as pertinent now as it was when recorded, I’d be happy to see Working Class Hero stake a claim in the repertoire moving forward.
For the last song of the tour, they went into a spacy little jam before Oteil thunderously strummed the bassline to Whipping Post. Quinones’ gong chimed in behind them alongside Butch and Jaimoe. The organ and guitars started howling as they paved the way for the verse. Gregg sang strong, crooning on the verses, belting out the choruses and chiming in well on organ. With Oteil fueling the thunder, the two guitarists each took off on monstrous solos driving the tune further and further until it would erupt into the double octave crescendos, then repeat itself again. Derek took another great solo, sans slide, and Warren fired back bending strings on the high frets. Gregg sang one last full-winded chorus as they closed out a great four-show run.
After seeing such enthusiasm in the house, I can see why the band has continued to play so many great shows in Boston for all these years. Much gratitude is due to the ABB band and crew who’ve worked so hard for so long to keep these fine shows happening. Looking forward to seeing what this band has in store for us come March.
Set I: Hot Lanta, Guilded Splinters, Trouble No More, Come and Go Blues, The Sky Is Crying, Every Hungry Woman, Egypt, All Along the Watchtower, One Way Out
Set II: Melissa, Revival, Gamblers Roll, Into the Mystic, Sailin’ Across the Devils Sea, Mountain Jam> Birdland > Smokestack Lightning > 3rd Stone From the Sun > Mountain Jam
Encore: Working Class Hero*, Whipping Post
* – Just Derek, Warren and Marc