The Allman Brothers Band were known for their marathon, three-hour concerts and long, stretched-out jams that could go upwards of 30 minutes. We got both of these things recently at The Allman Betts Family Revival at Capitol One Hall, as The Allman Betts Band was joined by a variety of guests to celebrate the music of the godfathers of Southern rock.
With some of these reviews, I have to introduce the band to my readers, as I cover some obscure stuff. But The Allman Brothers hardly need an introduction; they’re a big enough deal that even my mother, who is largely ignorant of popular culture after about 1970, is aware of who they are, though she couldn’t think of any of their songs.
But bear with me: Formed in 1969 in their hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, The Allmans were led by Greg Allman, who sang and played organ. But, in some ways, the real stars of the band were the twin-guitar attack of Gregg’s older brother, Duane, and Dickey Betts. Tragically, just a few years into the band’s early ’70s run — a legendary period that influenced nearly every band south of the Mason-Dixon line — Duane passed in a motorcycle accident.
Over the years, other guitarists would come and go from the band’s lineup: Warren Haynes (who later founded the jam-rock trio Government Mule) and Derek Trucks (who co-founded the dozen-piece Tedeschi Trucks Band with his wife, blues singer and guitarist Susan Tedeschi) were both in the lineup at times. To recreate The Allmans’ legendary twin guitar attack at Capital One Hall on Dec. 5, The Allman Betts band brought in Luther Dickinson of the Grammy-nominated North Mississippi Allstars, a blues-rock trio who count The Allmans as a major influence. (His younger brother Cody, also played drums throughout the evening.)
While the guitar work in The Allman Brothers Band proved enormously influential, they were a band full of instrumental virtuosos. On bass, they had Jaimoe. While Jaimoe’s playing is almost inimitable, accomplished young player Tal Wilkenfeld did an admirable job of covering his parts.
A big part of the secret sauce that made The Allman Brothers one of the best and most influential rock acts of the early ’70s was their versatility. They rocked, but they also delved into roots music, with strains of country and, even moreso, blues, in their eclectic musical mix. They would often cover classic blues songs, like “Statesboro Blues,” the second tune of the evening’s first set, turning them into extended jams. And when it comes to jamming and improvisation, it’s undeniable that jazz is part of their DNA.
Watch The Allman Brothers perform “Statesboro Blues” at the University of Florida in 1982 via YouTube:
The core of the players on Dec. 5 came from The Allman Betts Band, which was formed last decade by the sons of Greg Allman and Dickey Betts, Devon Allman and Duane Betts, respectively. The first set opened with “Sailin’ ‘Cross the Devil’s Sea.” For “Statesboro Blues,” they brought out their first guest of the evening, Jimmy Hall, who played harmonica and sang lead. Jimmy also sang the next one, “No One to Run With.” One of the fun parts of the evening was getting to see some of the classic songs gender swapped. Guitarist and singer Ally Venable covered the Gregg Allman solo tune “I’m No Angel,” Tal Wilkenfeld sang lead on “Ain’t Wastin’ Time,” and, in the second set, Mattie Schell sang “Come and Go Blues” and Belgian blues musician Ghalia Volt did “Pony Bony.”
There were plenty of other guest musicians on the show. In the first set, Jackie Greene came out for “Melissa.” Before he sang it, the band told the audience, “We know it’s a nice venue, but you can go completely apeshit with us and have fun.” (I took them up on this and treated myself to a ginger ale at intermission. I know, I’m a complete wildman!) Blues master Larry McCray did “Soulshine,” and New Orleans-based singer-songwriter Anders Osborne sang “Ramblin’ Man” in the second set. The show also included a few instrumental jams, the Gregg Allman solo tune “Dreams,” “Seven Turns” (which was inspired by a Navajo spiritual adviser to Gregg), “One Way Out, “Whippin’ Post,” “Sweet Magnolia Road,” and “Midnight Rider.”
Unfortunately, I never saw The Allman Brothers; indeed, their peak came years before I was born. Surely, no tribute act can live up to their high standards — Live At Fillmore East may be the best live record ever made — but The Allman Betts Family Revival was pretty close.
Here are some photos of The Allman Betts Family Revival performing at Capital One Hall on Dec. 5, 2023. All pictures copyright and courtesy of Steve Satzberg.