The only note of sentiment during the Allman Brothers Band’s October 28th concert at New York’s Beacon Theatre – their last at that venue and anywhere else, at least for the foreseeable future – came after more than four hours of music: three sets and an inevitable encore, “Whipping Post.” The seven members of the group – the surviving trio of founders, singer-organist Gregg Allman and drummers Butch Trucks and Jaimoe; the long-serving guitar team of Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks; and often overlooked veterans Oteil Burbridge on bass and percussionist Marc Quinones – lined up onstage and took a bow: a first at any Allmans-Beacon show I’d ever attended.
Then Gregg, pressed forward by the others, gave a short speech, another first, recalling the day 45 years ago that he first sang with the original Allmans lineup – led by his late brother, guitarist Duane Allman, and including guitarist Dickey Betts and the late bassist Berry Oakley – at a jam session in Jacksonville, Florida. Gregg cited the precise date, March, 26th, 1969, then said, in a low, worn voice, “Never did I have any idea it could come to this.” He gazed gratefully at the crowd, still on its feet, clapping and cheering, at nearly 1:30 a.m. “Now,” Gregg added, “We’re gonna do the first song we ever played.”
The Allmans got back in position and tore into “Trouble No More,” the Muddy Waters rumble from Side One of the group’s 1969 debut album, The Allman Brothers Band. It sounded nothing like goodbye: tight and gnarly, Derek and Haynes riding the triple-drum-kit surf with avenging poise. But it was.
Until that late acknowledgement of the occasion, the show was most remarkable for what didnt’t happen. There were no special guests – a signature feature of the Alllmans’ Beacon shows over the last decade – and the group did not throw in any of the extended-family covers (the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Dr.John, Derek and the Dominos) that came, often in medleys without warning, during the Allmans’ annual spring runs at the Beacon. The closest they got to the latter: an elegaic swerve, at the end of the first set, through King Curtis’s “Soul Serenade” in “You Don’t Love Me,” quoting a segue I’ve got on an August, 1971 live-radio bootleg; and the chase-scene extension of “Black Hearted Woman” in the second set, when the rhythm section switched accents and Derek and Haynes hit the chattering riff of the Grateful Dead’s “The Other One.”
Otherwise, the Allmans – who announced their retirement from touring after Derek and Haynes issued a statement earlier this year that they were leaving to concentrate on their own careers – made sure they performed as much of their classic catalog, from the five albums made between that ’69 bow and 1973’s Brothers and Sisters, as could be fit in one night. The end of the road actually began with a poetic rewind of Duane-time flashbacks: An introductory flourish of the guitarist’s last composition, the acoustic “Little Martha” played by Derek and Haynes in electric harmony, quickly broke into “Mountain Jam,” the guitarists citing Donovan’s source melody, “There Is a Mountain,” in languid, treble sighs. It was a literal replication of the closing sequence, on Sides Three and Four, of 1972’s Eat a Peach, the album the Allmans were making when Duane died the previous October. That coupling erupted into another: the one-two punch of the Spencer Davis Group’s “Don’t Want You No More” and Gregg’s eerily prophetic blues “It’s Not My Cross to Bear” at the beginning of The Allman Brothers Band.
The Allmans’ recurring cycles of ascension, tragedy, crash, recovery and determined performing triumph, in every era, were directly addressed in a first-set reading of “The High Cost of Low Living,” from 2003’s Hittin’ the Note, the only Allmans studio album to feature Derek and Haynes. The third set was a loosely narrative charge through pilgrimage and celebration – “Revival,” “Southbound” and more “Mountain Jam.” The last gently dissolved into the Carter Family hymn “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” sung by Gregg as ragged pleading with Haynes riding shotgun, in decisively sunny harmony. But the finish extended the circle, taking everyone back to psychedelic church with another flash of “Mountain Jam” at “The Other One” velocity.
The talk in the balcony, before the show and during the breaks, was of Betts, who was fired in 2000: Was there a chance he would come out and play, completing one more circle on the last possible night? He didn’t but was present in the songs – “Blue Sky,” “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” – and in Derek and Haynes’ ties, through their harmonies and soloing, to the standards of fraternal lock and empathic dialogue set by Duane, with Betts, right out of the gate, in 1969. As he did on other nights in this October run, Derek played Duane’s own gold-top Les Paul – in the first set during Elmore James’ “One Way Out” and Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl.”
But there was a lot of blues-power Dickey cutting through the Duane in both Derek’s raga-panic breaks and Haynes’ modal skids during “Elizabeth Reed” and in that “Whipping Post.” The younger men both played with Betts at different times in the Allmans, then together in the band for nearly fifteen years, five times longer than Betts and Duane did. There was never a suggestion – when Derek joined in 1999 and Haynes came back after Betts’ dismissal – that either player had replaced the elders. The lightning, frenzy and swan dives in “Hot ‘Lanta,” “Statesboro Blues” And “Dreams,” tonight as at every other Beacon show I saw, were acts of acknowledgement and summation, charged with pursuit of the unfinished.
That work, it seems, will stay undone. During the intermissions, a curious message appeared on the large video screen behind the band: “The road indeed goes on forever. So stay calm, eat a peach and carry on . . .” The individual members of the Allmans will certainly continue to play in some form and combinations. There may even be reunions. As for the guitarists, Derek’s R&B juggernaut with his wife Susan Tedeschi, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, recently played a transcendant Beacon run in September, and Haynes’ group Gov’t Mule will make their traditional holiday stop at that stage on December 30th and 31st. I went to the former; I don’t want to miss the latter.
But it will take more than a peach to get me through next March. It was never spring, I always said, until I saw the Allmans peakin’ at the Beacon. Tonight was a generous, continually thrilling farewell. It will make the leaving that much harder to bear. (Rolling Stone on Facebook, 2014)
The Allman Brothers Band could have wrapped up their farewell concert with any number of songs. They could have gone with an epic, jammed-out “Whipping Post,” which they did for the second last song at New York’s Beacon Theater on October 28th, 2014. They could have gone with a classic like “Mountain Jam,” “Midnight Rider” or “Melissa,” but they did those earlier in the night during the four hour blowout. Instead, they went with Muddy Waters’ “Trouble No More,” from their first side of their 1969 debut LP. An emotional Gregg Allman told the crowd that night it was the first song played at the group’s first rehearsal. “This was at about 3:30 in the afternoon, on March 26th, 1969,” he said. “Never did I have any idea it would come to this.”
It came to this after 45 amazing years that saw more tragedy and heartbreak than just about any group in rock history. They endured the deaths of guitarist Duane Allman and bassist Berry Oakley in separate motorcycle accidents just a few years after the group began, two breakups, a bitter split with founding guitarist Dickey Betts after years of acrimony and numerous health problems for Gregg Allman that threatened their existence time and time again. Throughout it all they kept gigging, helped in no small part by the addition of guitarists Warren Haynes in 1989 and guitarist Derek Trucks (nephew of drummer Butch Trucks) a decade later.
When the time came to call it quits in 2014 there was no other place to end it than the Beacon Theater. They first played a residency at the Upper West Side theater in 1989 and three years later they turned it into an annual tradition. Fans from around the country descended on New York City every March for a chance to catch the shows, which featured a steady stream of surprise guest stars, amazing covers and unforgettable nights.
Demand for tickets was never higher than the October 28th, 2014 show. Days after it ended, Derek Trucks told Rolling Stone they ended at the right time. “If we’d gone on much longer, we wouldn’t have been able to summon that [last] show,” he said. “Almost any other time there’s a huge send-off, it’s a star-studded thing. This was just the band showing up and playing, the way they always did. There’s something honest and proud, dignified and beautiful about the way it ended.”
From nearly the minute it ended rumors began spreading that the band was going to reform. “I would never rule anything out,” Haynes told Rolling Stone in 2015. “There’s no talk of that, but you know, I think the door’s always open.” That door began closing in January when Butch Trucks committed suicide, and it permanently closed on May 27th when Gregg Allman died after a long battle with liver cancer. Thankfully, the group had the opportunity to meticulously plan their final show and go out on an incredibly high note. (by Rolling Stone, May 30, 2017)
And the last song of this fanstastic show, was the first song, The Allman Brothers Band ever played back in summer of 69 in Jacksonville, Forida.
Gregg Allman (keyboards, vocals, guitar)
Oteil Burbridge (bass, vocals)
Warren Haynes (guitar, slide guitar)
Jaimoe (drums, percussion)
Marc Quinones (percussion, vocals)
Butch Trucks (drums, percussion)
Derek Trucks (guitar, slide guitar)
01. Little Martha (D.Allman) 0.51
02. Mountain Jam (Leitch/D.Allman/Betts/Oakley/Johansen/Trucks/G.Allman) 4.01
03. Don’t Want You No More (Davis/Hardin) 2.35
04. It’s Not My Cross To Bear (G.Allman) 5.04
05. One Way Out (Sehorn/James) 6.25
06. Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl (Williamson) 10.54
07. Midnight Rider (G.Allman) 3.35
08. The High Cost Of Low Living (Allman/Haynes/Anders/Burgin) 8.39
09. Hot ‘Lanta (D.Allman/Betts/Oakley/Johansen/Trucks/G.Allman) 5.38
10. Blue Sky (Betts) 9.55
11. You Don’t Love Me (Cobbs) 13.30
01. Statesboro Blues (McTell) 4.52
02. Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More (G.Allman) 7.43
03. Black Hearted Woman (G.Allman) 13.08
04. The Sky Is Crying (James) 9.10
05. Dreams (G.Allman) 11.41
06. Don’t Keep Me Wondering (G.Allman) 4.16
07. Stage banter 1 0.18
08. In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed (Betts) 15.28
09. JaMaBuBu (Trucks/Jaimoe) 10.27
10. In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed (Betts) 2.34
01. Melissa (G.Allman) 5.39
02. Revival (Betts) 4.18
03. Stage banter 2 0.13
04. Southbound (Betts) 5.20
05. Mountain Jam (Leitch/D.Allman/Betts/Oakley/Johansen/Trucks/G.Allman) 8.06
06. Will The Circle Be Unbroken (Gabriel/Habershon) 10.51
07. Mountain Jam (reprise) (Leitch/D.Allman/Betts/Oakley/Johansen/Trucks/G.Allman) 3.07
08. Crowd noise 1 4.10
09. Whipping Post (G.Allman) 14.30
10. Crowd noise 2 1.48
12. Trouble No More (Morganfield/Estes) 4.29