When Devon Allman invited guitarist Linwood Taylor to the stage, he joked that three guitars were not enough; they needed four onstage at The Birchmere on Sunday night.
And so, The Allman Betts Band carried on the multi-guitar Southern rock jam tradition pioneered by their fathers in The Allman Brothers Band. Devon Allman, the son of the late Gregg Allman, sings lead vocals, plays guitar, and leads the band. Duane Betts, the son of legendary guitarist Dickey Betts, also sings and plays guitar. Berry Duane Oakley plays his father’s instrument, the bass. Johnny Stachela is on the third guitar, John Ginty is on keys, and R. Scott Bryan and John Lum comprise the group’s dual percussion attack.
On June 13, the band entered the stage to an instrumental from one of the spaghetti westerns scored by the Italian composer Ennio Morricone, and then they launched into a long instrumental jam of their own. The Allman Betts Band is an act you really have to catch live, as they perform best in an environment where they can improvise. If you just looked at the set list from Sunday evening, you might not have expected them to play for almost two-and-a-half hours.
ABB began with a run of their original tunes, starting with “Savannah’s Dream” and “Magnolia Road.” The band played a few covers, including The Grateful Dead’s “Shakedown Street” and “Raining Straight Down,” written by the late guitarist and singer-songwriter Neal Casal, who passed away in 2019.
While the majority of the set consisted of ABB originals, they did throw in what is perhaps The Allman Brothers’ best-known song, “Midnight Rider.” Devon picked up his acoustic guitar, and when the audience heard the first few notes, they rose from their seats and began to dance and sing along. Later in the set, they also covered “Hot ‘Lanta.”
Between “Midnight Rider” and “Hot ‘Lanta,” the band played several originals: “Southern Rain,” “Shinin,” “and Autumn Breeze.”
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In addition to Linwood Taylor, Sunday’s performance also featured an appearance by DC-based saxophone legend Ron Holloway, who appeared on two numbers in the main set, “Down to the River” and “King Crawler.” Devon declared that the “first three notes [of ‘Down to the River’] were with the price of admission alone.” Introducing the second tune, Allman said it was about “when you keep going back to your woman.”
After Holloway left the stage the stage, the band played the penultimate number in its set, “Rivers Run.” ABB closed their main set with “Pale Horse Rider.” At the conclusion the song, Devon flicked his guitar pick in the audience. A standing ovation brought them back to the stage with their guests to play “Doctor’s Daughter” and “Southbound.” As they wrapped that final number, Devon wished the audience “peace and love.” The audience was ready to keep the faith until The Allman Betts Band returns, hopefully in the not-too-distant future!
Here are some photos of The Allman Betts Band performing at The Birchmere on June 13, 2021. All photos copyright and courtesy of Marc Caicedo.