Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Allman Brothers Band Beacon Theatre New York 15 March 2011

I've frequently remarked to friends and acquaintances that the retired lifestyle, particularly to someone who spent his working life working through timetables and calendars, becomes a continuous present with the days blurring into each other and chronological landmarks largely conspicuous by their absence.

Which means that while I know the current run at the Beacon started last Friday, and this is Day Five (or Fifth Night, depending on where you're sitting) it already seems to have been running, well, not quite forever, but the time-blurring effect kicks in. 

Whereas, in fact, about a third of the way through today's performance, say about fifty minutes into the first set, we'll still only be a third of the way through this year's run. There was a very workmanlike version of 29 Ways playing over the PA as I jotted down these notes, and I started to ponder the quite possibly more than twenty-nine ways that Warren or whoever does the setlists might choose to go from here.

That sort of thinking is, I guess a kind of mental scene setting, an easing in before the pre-show bangs, thumps, assorted tunings et cetera prompt the switch to full screen mode on the iMac.

By now, thinking straight off the top of the head, most of the usual suspects, those tracks you can confidently predict will be part of the regular setlist have all had at least one airing, so I guess from here it's a case of mixing things up, avoiding a straight repetition of an earlier night, reshuffle the elements, throw in the odd surprise and call in the odd guest. 

And to date, once the initial technical issues have been pushed to one side, things have run pretty smoothly, though I'd prefer to be sitting in the living room with the view out into the courtyard

rather than lurking in the office, but you can't have everything. To date, given the persistence of the northern Australian wet season that scenic aspect hasn't been quite so important, but the rain bands have cleared around these parts and blue skies are the order of the day, which prompted a momentary consideration of an instrumental Blue Sky, for instance.

I started jotting these thoughts down just after ten-ten, and given the failure of proceedings to kick in before the half hour was just becoming restless when:

10:32 The PA soundtrack cuts out, causing momentary panic. When it's back, the volume seems to have dropped, and I've no sooner turned up the amp on the stereo (iMac patched into the office sound system) when whoever's looking after these things decides to remedy the situation and I have to get up and turn things back down, even if only slightly.

There's a significant increase in ambient noise as the pre lift-off bangs and thumps brings the ABB logo onto the screen. We're still, however, waiting at 10:35, when There's no place like home appears on the screen. Ain't that the truth. Sitting in the office armchair watching a show from the other side of the world with blue skies and the prospect of something decent from the wine rack with lunch.

So, what's for starters?

10:38 Still banging and thumping and getting set up. What are we waiting for? Ah, Trouble No More. Nice workmanlike starter. Solid, nothing particularly flashy, but maybe an indication, rather than a statement, of intent. I suspect we're in for a good night.

10:42 Come & Go Blues

10:46 Big glitch. Out and back in to Warren solo. 

10:49 Left channel drops out, followed by the right, left back, then the right returns as the band sets off to calculate The High Cost of Low Living. Gregg's gone for the glasses. Makes him look like an accountant. Don't think that's part of the intention.

10:54 A restrained intro to a Derek solo. Let's see where it leads from here. Precise slide work as things built but don't quite built to the slashing sonic shards I'm waiting for. By 10:57 we're tapering and a minute later it's Warren's turn as things go surging upwards again, then wind back down. Nice use of light and shade in the solo department.

11:02 Worried Down With The Blues

11:08 Not quite sure that you'd label the Derek/Warren interaction I just saw as a cutting contest, but it was rather tasty.

11:10 Guest coming up? Nope. End of the Line. Been a while since I've heard that one.

11:14 Sound and vision freezes, one after the other. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.

11:17 Great Derek/Warren interplay as things wind up. Instrumental time?

11:19 Don't Keep Me Wonderin'

11:23 "Thank you so much." "Y'all put your hands together for our friend Steve Earle." Devil's Right Hand. Bit of a surprise, that one!

11:27 Knockin' On Heaven's Door. Steve Earle still there. Gregg for the first verse, Steve second, Warren solo. Really classy reading of a great song, with just the right weight of world weariness. Ain't it wonderful to have this sort of thing thrown in the mix. Derek takes over. Warren to take the vocal on the next verse. Nope, no next verse, but he leads everyone into the final chorus.

11:34 "Steve Earle. Thank you Steve."

11:35 Jessica. Strangely there's almost a hesitancy around the start, almost like we're not 100% in sync, 99.9% perhaps, but not quite there as they go into that little step up that's one of my favourite bits. As the solos proceed things slide back together with Mountain Jam/First There Is a Mountain teases scattered throughout. Great stuff!

11:52 Break time? Sure enough, "We're gonna take a lil' short break. Don't go away. We'll be right back." 

Actually, after that Jessica, with the promise of further goodies to come I don't see why anyone in their right mind would be leaving.

But it's bloody close to lunchtime, and I can live without the Moogis testimonials so I wander off to the kitchen reflecting that there are positive aspects to not watching in the living room. Sometimes it's good to get a lil' short break away from the scene of the action.

12:22 The sight of the ABB logo is the cue to crank the volume back up and settle into the chair. Given the murky state of things as shadowy figures move around in the shadows you can't actually see what's going on, and guess work becomes the natural state of mind. Little touches of guitar put me in mind of Little Wing, the Hendrix rather than the Clapton reading. Delicate tuning seemed to fit that scenario, then tinkering cymbals started  the thoughts off on another tangent. Drum rolls, off-mic comments, more of that subtle guitar…

12:25 Leave My Blues at Home. Parry and thrust interplay between Derek and Warren through 12:30 and 12:31 as things wind up. Tasty!

12:31 Maydell? That wah wah intro is rather distinctive. Great stuff, then a couple of little bits drop the clue and sure enough we're into

12:37 Manic Depression. Great stuff.

12:40 Freeze.

12:45 Gambler's Roll

12:53 Stand Back. Lack of scribbled comment reflects almost total immersion in what's unfolding on stage.

1:01 From what's going on in the shadows I'm inclining towards a Liz Reed, and, yep, sure enough off we go. There's a slight freeze around 1:04 and off into the stratosphere until 1:23 when the bass cuts in. Truly an epic Liz Reed. Wonder if Oteil will do the full scat bit?

1:26 Nope. Into the switcheroo. Under other circumstances I might have wandered off for a drink, but I want to be right on the spot when they cut back in, so I ain't going nowhere.

Eight minutes later we're back and at 1:36 we're done. That's what, thirty-five minutes of pretty stellar stuff.

"Thank you very mch. You're wonderful," is a comment that could be directed in the opposite direction rather than from stage to audience.

OK, so what do you follow that with? I know what I'd be following it with (Whipping Post), but as the darkened stage persists I suspect a guest in the offing. Given the late start, latish resumption and probable midnight curfew I upset that this is, in effect, the break between the second set and the encore.

One fuzzy but distinctive note gives me a suspicion that's soon confirmed. Robert Randolph. 

1:39 One Way Out, I reckon. Or maybe Whipping Post (which I'd love to see Randolph cut loose on). There's another guest sitting in on drums. No idea who it is, and Warren and Gregg give no indication.

Four minutes or so in, at 1:43 there's still no definite indication where we're headed, though I doubt it'll be Whipping Post.

Ah, What Love Can Do For You.

1:46 Freeze. Sound back reasonably quickly, but vision frozen on Randolph's hands.

1:48 Now it's Derek and Robert playing off each other. You can just about see Randolph calculating where he can sneak licks in, and when he sneaks them in, they always bring something to the party.

1:51 One Way Out.

And running right up to 2:00 "Thank you very much. Robert Randolph. We'll be off tomorrow night but we'll be back. Come back and see us."

Wouldn't miss it for quids.

And there, in about an hour, we have the reason why (a) I signed up for Moogis and (b) I'm not game to miss a night's feed. 

Stellar, stunning, tonight left me totally gobsmacked.

And the setlist:

1st Set
Trouble No More
Come and Go Blues
The High Cost of Low Living
Worried Down With The Blues
End Of The Line
Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’
Devil’s Right Hand (Steve Earle, Guitar & Vocals)
Knocking On Heaven’s Door (Steve Earle, Guitar & Vocals)

2nd Set
Leave My Blues At Home
Maydell> Manic Depression
Gambler’s Roll
Stand Back
In Memory of Elizabeth Reed

That’s What Love Will Make You Do (Robert Randolph, Pedal Steel; Ali Jackson,  Drums)
One Way Out (Robert Randolph, Pedal Steel; Ali Jackson, Drums)

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