Allman Bothers Band

The Road Goes On Forever . . . and Leads to the Palace

By Michael Campbell

On a steamy, stormy, post-Derby hazed evening, a thirsty throng came to get down, get loud and be proud with the veterans of the Road that Goes On Forever. Having survived more tragedy and discord than any three bands you could name, the Brothers seem to be thriving on their two guitar/three percussionist lineup, complete with blistering licks, extended jams, and retro-Fillmore light show.

With no opening act, the Allmans got right to business, opening with the first two cuts from their very first album, Spencer Davis' "Don't Want You No More" segued into Gregg Allman's "Cross To Bear." Welcome to the Big Guitar Sound. Playing with more creativity than in tours past, guitarists Dickey Betts and Warren Haynes focused the performance, pushing each other with escalating intensity. Betts, in particular, peppered his playing with quotes from Django Reinhardt as well as Jerry Garcia and Duane Allman, and occasionally stomping the old wah-wah pedal for good measure. Dickey seemed to totally enjoy his role as leader.

Warren Haynes has one of the most unenviable roles in pop music: following the legendary Duane "Skydog" Allman, the band's late founder. He has come to manage it admirably, balancing the trademark passages of Allman legacy (and he does have Duane's tone down!) with his own formidable creativity, even within the same piece of music.

The rhythm section seemed a bit distant early on, lacking the flourishes of call and response with the rest of the band, until a long instrumental, "True Gravity." Being a less-than-avid fan of drum solos, I was nonetheless fascinated by the evolution of the patterns churned out by the three percussionists, which lasted until the band returned with a scalding finish. And this was all before intermission.

The biggest surprise lay in what the Brothers chose not to play: "Whippin' Post," "Jessica" (last year's Grammy winner), "Southbound" in their two-and-a-half hours of performance. But given the quality of what they did play, it was a winning trade for band and audience alike. One audience member remarked in mock complaint about this "they went off the deep end, instrumentally." And the water was fine.