In celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Allman Brothers Band, founding drummer Jaimoe reunited a cast of the usual suspects for a jubilant romp through the legendary band’s catalog for a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.
Even amid panic and paranoia concerning the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the seats were filled with some of the band’s most loyal fans—people who would literally rather risk their life than miss this one-night-only performance. Being a member of that diehard camp, I cannot blame them. This show was certainly one for ages, a nostalgic celebration of the lives and art of heroes come and gone.
The Allman Brothers Band played their last show in October 2014 at the illustrious Beacon Theatre on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a venue they sold out more than 200 consecutive times over the years. After six years and the tragic losses of two original members in 2017, Gregg Allman and Butch Trucks, Tuesday’s The Brothers show provided the spiritual healing and emotional closure that many people needed so desperately by reviving the timeless music responsible for innumerable happy memories and countless friendships.
The stage was filled by remaining Allman Brothers family members new and old, with guitarists Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes and bassist Oteil Burbridge leading the vanguard while Derek’s younger brother, Duane Trucks, held down his Uncle Butch’s old post on drums, exchanging blows with Jaimoe and percussionist Marc Quinones. Reese Wynans brought his storied musical career full circle by filling in for Gregg’s role on the organ. Wynans, who was a part of the initial 1969 jam session that led to the Allman Brother’s formation, spent his professional years touring with blues icons like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Joe Bonamassa.
Getting down to business in a classic Allman Brother’s fashion under a giant, projection-lit mushroom, The Spencer Davis Group’s “Don’t Want You No More” bled into “It’s Not My Cross To Bear” for a high-energy opener that reminded everybody just what they were missing all these years. Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues” preceded uplifting runs through “Revival” and “Trouble No More” before the all-star lineup blazed through a scorching take on “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’” from 1970’s Idlewild South.
Returning to the Allman Brothers Band’s 1969 self-titled debut album, “Black Hearted Woman” wound its dark path into a mystical “Dreams” before the scorchin’ instrumental “Hot ’Lanta” was introduced by Wynans’ organ. From there, longtime friend and ABB member Chuck Leavell joined the powerhouse outfit onstage for the rest of the first set. After leading off with a rousing rendition of “Come and Go Blues” from 1973’s Brothers and Sisters album, a lengthy and poignant Leavell piano solo featuring hints of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?” gave way to Haynes’ signature ABB tune, “Soulshine”.
To round out the lengthy first set, “Stand Back” from 1972’s Eat a Peach set up a wholesome performance of the classic instrumental. “Jessica”. By returning to Brothers and Sisters, Chuck Leavell was able to show off music with which he was directly involved from the start, having fine-tuned the composition in a workshop with Dickey Betts and Les Dudek in the early ’70s. And man, did Chuck soar on this one.
Upon returning from set break, heavy jams abounded, breaking the levees and destroying the flood gate as Chuck Leavell stayed onstage for a lengthy “Mountain Jam” (featuring Derek on Duane Allman‘s famous Goldtop Gibson Les Paul) which transitioned into a peaceful, flowing “Blue Sky”. This Dickey Betts masterpiece was spearheaded by Derek Trucks’ sizzling guitar licks and Leavell’s soothing vocals. Warren Haynes then led the band through “Desdemona” off 2003’s Hittin’ the Note, making it the most recently-released selection of the night. Chuck Leavell introduced and dazzled his way through “Ain’t Wasting Time No More” (“Running after a subway train…”) before bowing off out once more.
Working through the second set, “Every Hungry Woman” paved the way for a bittersweet version of Gregg Allman’s “Melissa” (with Haynes on acoustic guitar) to blow the doors off the venue. “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”, another tried and true instrumental jam vehicle for the ABB, packed the sold-out crowd onto a roller coaster ride that featured dueling guitars, whirling organs, and percussive breakdowns. Warren took the helm once more for an honest take on “No One To Run With”, its message ringing wistfully true as it reverberated through the World’s Most Famous Arena. To close out the second set, a rocking “One Way Out” washed the bittersweet emotions of the previous song to end the set with furious intensity.
When The Brothers returned to the stage for their curtain call, they were joined once again by the beloved Chuck Leavell to perform Gregg’s “Midnight Rider” before slamming home an explosive “Whipping Post” to leave the crowd shell-shocked yet overjoyed. Warren swapped out the song’s final lyrics for an eternal message: “Sometimes/ Oh, sometimes / like a good friend told me / You know there aint! / No such thing as dying!”
As the band took one final bow, the audience ignored the CDC and wrapped their arms around one another with tears of joy rolling down their cheeks. Joyous yet bittersweet, a long and raucous standing ovation accompanied by hoots and hollers—especially as Jaimoe threw up bullhorns—continued even after the band left the stage and the house lights came on.
With such a talented showcase of Allman Brothers tunes and this hungry, devoted crowd that has been longing for something—anything—that resembled the feeling of an ABB show, the same question remains: Can “The Brothers” reunite down the road to do it once more? Does the road go on forever or was this really, truly, the end? Whichever the case, we’re thankful to have been in attendance for this truly special celebration.
Below, you can watch a selection of videos and listen to full-show audio of The Brothers: Celebrating 50 Years of The Allman Brothers Band at Madison Square Garden. You can also check out a gallery of photos from the show courtesy of photographer Andrew Blackstein.
The Brothers – “Don’t Want You No More” [Pro-Shot] – 3/10/20
The Brothers – “Jessica” – 3/10/20
The Brothers – “Mountain Jam” [Pro-Shot] – 3/10/20
The Brothers – “Midnight Rider”, “Whipping Post” – 3/10/20
[Video: Jim Powers]
The Brothers: Celebrating 50 Years of The Allman Brothers Band – Madison Square Garden – 3/10/20 – Full Audio
Setlist: The Brothers | Madison Square Garden | New York, NY | 3/10/20
Set One: Don’t Want You No More (The Spencer Davis Group cover), It’s Not My Cross to Bear, Statesboro Blues (Blind Willie McTell cover), Revival, Trouble No More (Muddy Waters cover), Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’, Black Hearted Woman, Dreams, Hot ‘Lanta, Come and Go Blues*, Soulshine*, Stand Back*, Jessica*
Set Two: Mountain Jam*, Blue Sky*, Desdemona*, Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More*, Every Hungry Woman, Melissa, In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, No One to Run With, One Way Out (Elmore James cover)
Encore: Midnight Rider*, Whipping Post*
* w/ Chuck Leavell