Rock 'n' Roll Stew

Allman Brothers Band - Steve Earle

New World Music Theatre - Tinley Park, IL

August 8, 1998

First Appeared in The Music Box, September 1998, Volume 5, #9

Written by John Metzger


Somehow, the Allman Brothers Band just keeps on growing. A decade ago, it began to rebuild its following and musical inspiration with the help of guitarist Warren Haynes and bassist Allen Woody. Each summer, it has mounted a massive tour, bringing in new fans by associating themselves with younger bands like Blues Traveler and Rusted Root. Prior to last Summer's tour, the ensemble took a stunning blow when Haynes and Woody opted to turn Gov't Mule into a full-time project, but while Haynes and Woody were outstanding musicians who infused the Allman Brothers Band with a new life, their loss proved to be nothing more than a mere blip on the group's EKG.

Guitarist Jack Pearson (a long-time friend of Gregg Allman) and bassist Oteil Burbridge (a close associate of the legendary Col. Bruce Hampton) were quickly added to the Allman Brothers Band's line-up, and the group began its summer sojourn without missing a beat. Last year's concert at the New World Music Theatre in Tinley Park, Illinois was a blockbuster performance, filled with an incredible intensity that the dismal weather couldn't come close to dismantling.

Over the past year, the Allman Brothers Band has gelled even further, and on August 8, it brought its caravan back into the New World Music Theatre for another earth-shattering performance. All night long, Pearson remained seated because he was still weak from his emergency appendectomy surgery. His guitar playing was better than ever as he taunted Dickey Betts into one inspired duel after another, lifting each song into an intense realm of psychedelic passion. From the opening notes of Statesboro Blues to the closing jam of No One to Run With, the band was in its groove.

Statesboro Blues has been played countless times, and often it comes across as a bit of a throw-away, obligatory number. On this evening, it was a blues-infused, soul-stirring excursion, laced with swirling organ and fiery guitar licks. Hot 'Lanta was a whirlwind journey that explored its jazzy roots with fearless intrepidity. Burbridge stung the underbelly of the song with an explosive flurry of bass notes that punched holes through the melody.

The big news for this summer's tour was the reintroduction of a mini-acoustic set midway through the show. Betts paid homage to Robert Johnson with a solid Steady Rollin' Man as did Gregg Allman with Come into My Kitchen. Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad fell somewhere between blues and bluegrass, but the highlight of this mini-set was a stunning, breathtaking rendition of Melissa. The song ached with passion, and soared majestically on the three-guitar salute of Allman, Pearson, and Betts.

The final part of the show began with an angry You Don't Love Me that provided a startling contrast to the acoustic set. Dreams followed and was perhaps the best-performed song of the evening. The band enthusiastically explored the tune, working it into a jazz-based extravaganza. The melody mutated as it twisted and turned, eventually disintegrating into a primordial space-filled apparition. The band brought the song full-circle to a colorful conclusion. In Memory of Elizabeth Reed was given a similar treatment and also included a pulsing percussion interlude.

Steve Earle opened the show with an engaging performance that drew heavily from Neil Young and The Band. Earle revamped many of his more popular songs like Feel Alright and Copperhead Road into more appealing, roots-oriented excursions. For good measure, Earle tossed in an eerie aural portrait of Bruce Springsteen's State Trooper.

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Copyright 1998 The Music Box