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 HTN Show Review 
MARCH 13, 2015

by Bret Adams

The Allman Brothers Band may be history, but for Gregg Allman, the road goes on forever.

The living legend kicked off a tour leg near Cleveland in Northfield, OH, on March 13, 2015, at the Hard Rock Live inside the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park. The near-capacity audience at the fifteen-song, ninety-minute show was treated to a solid set consisting mostly of Allman Brothers Band favorites as well as solo material and covers.

Allman spent most of his time behind his Hammond B-3 organ while stepping out front a few times to strap on an electric or acoustic guitar. Eight stellar musicians comprised his backing band: guitarist Scott Sharrard, keyboardist Peter Levin, percussionist Marc Quinones (Allman's longtime Allman Brothers Band cohort), bass guitarist Ron Johnson, saxophonist Jay Collins, saxophonist Art Edmaiston, trumpeter Marc Franklin and drummer Steve Potts. All of them got the chance to bask in the spotlight - Sharrard, Levin, Quinones, Collins, Edmaiston and Franklin in particular.

The band strolled onto the darkened stage to some tasty blues and Allman announced the first song as being “about a place in Georgia” as they launched “Statesboro Blues,” the Blind Willie McTell cover from 1971’s At Fillmore East. As the rear screen scrolled through photos of various blues legends, the band ripped through the tune with Levin, Edmaiston and Sharrard enjoying solos; the horns certainly added a lot of flavor.

With the opening guitar riff eliciting cheers, the hit title track from 1986’s I'm No Angel was up next. Overall it sounded somewhat drier than the original recording. Still quite good, but drier. Attribute that to the often-derided ’80s production gloss. Say what you will, but that shininess enlivened a lot of ’80s records, and pretty much every decade in popular music has a production sound reflective of the tastes and technology of the time.

“Come and Go Blues” from 1973’s Brothers and Sisters - the ABB’s sole number-one album - was slow and moody with solos from Levin, Franklin, Edmaiston and Sharrard. (It was the first song of the night that featured the rear screen displaying a floating image of Allman’s 2011 Low Country Blues album cover.)

Allman introduced the cover of Ray Charles’ “The Brightest Smile in Town” by saying “we just kind of learned it.” It gradually built up steam with nice solos from Levin and Collins.

A cover of Muddy Waters’ “The Same Thing” rode a slow and funky groove with tasty solos from Franklin, Quinones and Sharrard. Potts’ booming drums kicked off a beefy and lively version of “Trouble No More” (another Waters cover) from the ABB’s 1969 debut album, The Allman Brothers Band. The horns, Sharrard’s slide guitar and Allman's biting B-3 set off sparks.

A soulful rendition of “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” from 1972’s Eat a Peach featured Allman up front playing a Fender Stratocaster, as an extended solo from Edmaiston and important contributions from Levin and Sharrard fleshed things out.

The most welcome surprise of the night was the Warren Haynes-penned “Soulshine” from 1994’s Where it All Begins. Sharrard contributed some lead and harmony vocals, but his guitar solos and Edmaiston’s saxophone solos stood out behind Allman’s heartfelt singing. Potts’ sharp drumming drove home “Done Somebody Wrong,” the Elmore James cover from At Fillmore East. Sharrard’s sputtering slide guitar and Collins’ saxophone solo were the icing on the cake.

Allman left the stage for a break as the rest of the band stormed through “Cradle of Civilization,” a lengthy instrumental funk jam written by Collins (from his Jay Collins Band’s 2005 album Poem for You Today) in which they all got to show off and strut their stuff, especially Quinones, Johnson, Levin and Sharrard.

After that exhilarating stretch, Allman returned, picked up an acoustic guitar and led the band in a warmly rich version of “Melissa” from Eat a Peach. Levin and Sharrard shined in their solos.

The energy level rose several notches with the heavy rockabilly stomp of “Love Like Kerosene,” a song from Sharrard’s 2012 release Scott Sharrard & the Brickyard Band. Allman was manning his Strat on this one.

Allman went back to acoustic guitar again and it only took the first few teasing notes of “Midnight Rider” to stir up the crowd even more. The arrangement of this haunting classic was a blend of the original found on the ABB 1970’s Idlewild South and Allman’s solo re-imagining from Laid Back, his solo effort from 1973.

The main set wrapped up with Allman on electric guitar leading a surprisingly jazzy take on “Whipping Post” from The Allman Brothers Band. The ending retained the harrowing, dramatic feel of the original.

The sole encore was “Southbound” from Brothers and Sisters. The band settled into a lively groove and much of the crowd danced along. There were a few times when Allman’s singing was down a little too low in the mix, but its power was still evident. That golden voice is still largely intact. A longer show would have been nice, of course - 90 minutes felt too brief - but it was a treat to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer in a fairly intimate setting. Surely nobody could have blamed Allman if he simply chose to retire after the recent dissolution of the Allman Brothers Band. After all, he’s 67 years old with decades of hard living and health problems in his rear-view mirror, but after a lifetime of extreme highs and lows, the thrill of making music still burns too hot inside the man for him to stop now.
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