Allmans Test Gravity
Allman Brothers Band
Riviera Theatre - Chicago
May 11, 1996
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 1996, Volume 3, #4
Written by John Metzger
The Allman Brothers planted itself in Chicago for five shows at the Riviera in May, and the two-set, three-hour concert held on May 11 was rather uneven. Granted, the peaks were incredibly far out, but the lows were often rote. The first set took off with a raucous Statesboro Blues before Gregg Allman picked up his acoustic guitar for a sweet Midnight Rider. Things really kicked into gear as the ensemble swept the pieces together for an incredible jam that was reminiscent of Franklin's Tower. This led to the first true highlight of the night — a long, extravagant Blue Sky. Dickey Betts and Warren Haynes were incredible, shooting frenzied notes throughout the arena while an intense light show provided some excellent visual effects. The second notable moment of the night occurred during theTrue Gravity. This instrumental went every direction possible and included a rhythmic cacophony of drums and bass before entering a lengthy, intense jam that essentially was the Grateful Dead's St. Stephen done with a southern-bred, Allman-esque twang. This led back to True Gravity and the conclusion of the first set. Yes, this was just the first half of the show.
After a short break, the Allman Brothers Band returned for a reasonably strong second set that peaked at its midpoint as Duane Betts joined the band. Dickey's son has been playing with the group for a few years now, and he has grown immensely in his guitar playing ability. The three-guitar onslaught has clicked and seems much looser than in past tours. The structure is gone, and instead a free-form jam of amazing intensity emerged as Haynes and the dueling Betts' boys each played solo after solo, particularly on the blues classic The Same Thing. Instead of the usual Whipping Post encore, the band unleashed One Way Out and an incredible version of Jessica. This provided the perfect ending, giving the collective plenty of room to carry this instrumental and the audience out to the far ends of the universe one last time.
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