Allman Brothers play dependably unpredictably
The Allman Brothers Band is certainly a certifiable rock ’n’ roll brand, yet the group hardly rests on legacy. Last night, the first of three sold-out shows at the Orpheum, the Allmans breathed new life into familiar fare and took its fans on a psychedelic journey that tapped the familiar yet led to the new.
The Allmans are back on the road this month for the first time since founder Gregg Allman had a liver transplant in June. There was nothing gingerly about the band’s opener, “Revival,’’ which joyously kicked things off after a delay spurred by a check on the Orpheum’s alarm system.
Brother Gregg would fully blossom later in the show, but not before guitarists Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes asserted their formidable prowess that has propelled the Allmans into a fifth decade.
In its first set, the Allmans erased any hard feelings about the delay by playing an eclectic mix of songs that included Dr. John’s “Walk on Gilded Splinters’’ and “All My Friends,’’ a teary tune from Allman’s solo catalog.
Bassist Oteil Burbridge stepped up to sing the Derek and the Dominos classic “Anyday,’’ and majestic “Black Hearted Woman’’ closed the first set with an ensemble jam of the sort that distinguishes the Allmans.
The second set opened with Allman playing the plaintive “Melissa’’ on acoustic guitar with guitarist Haynes, drummer Butch Trucks, and Burbridge. Even with hotshot Derek Trucks, stalwart drummer Jaimoe, and percussionist Marc Quinones on the sidelines, the ensemble glowed. Once the additional players joined in for “Coming Home,’’ the energy soared and never came down.
The slow blues of “Stormy Monday’’ was a highlight of the second set, with Allman leading the charge through T-Bone Walker’s lament with such force that even Derek Trucks applauded the performance at song’s end.
Haynes orchestrated a jazzy “Woman Across the River’’ in the second set. And a cosmic rendition of “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed’’ complete with drum solos — delivered the hallucinatory goods the Allmans can still be counted on. Dependable, yes; predictable, no way.
Scott McLennan can be reached at email@example.com.