January 1, 2012
Winstar World Casino
Thackerville, OK USA
Review by Karlyn Suggs
Photos by Jeff Jones
It's the first day of a New Year. While most people are nursing a hangover, figuring out which resolution they are going to break, or just watching the final day of pro football on television, the one promise I'm not going to desert lies 85 miles north of Dallas inside the Winstar Casino. Tonight, Gregg Allman is holding court and attendance for all blues aficionados is mandatory.
Before Allman's set, I'm approached by a lady holding two pieces of vinyl in her hand. She wants to know if I can help her somehow get the records she has signed. I guess the laminated pass given to me at the box office makes me look like I officially have connections with her hero. I politely listen to her story about how much Gregg's music meant to her over the years. I feel rather sad to inform her I'm powerless to do anything about her plight. During the course of the evening, the woman's words to me will take on a special meaning.
When the lights went down, Allman appeared stage left. His demeanor was quiet and humble. The years have not been kind to the aging star. A drug and alcohol laden career, marked by both triumph and tragedy, has left him looking tired and road weary. For the briefest of moments, I wonder if people in the audience will be disappointed by what they hear this evening. Already a postcard on our chairs has informed those gathered that Gregg has chronic hepatitis C, and this tour will hopefully raise awareness to the disease.
Though it's refreshing to see a star take a devastating experience and turn it into a positive, I'm still worried it has taken its toll on the musician. As he takes his seat behind a the trusty Hammond B3, the crowd is on their feet cheering. The lady with the vinyl records rushes to the front of the stage begging for his attention. Opening with "I'm No Angel,"the irony of the song is hard to escape. Fortunately, the outward appearance of the musician will prove to be deceptive.
Allman takes the audience down a trip down Blues Boulevard. Along the way, he stops to recall the days of Blind Willie McTell with "Statesboro Blues," a classic shuffle brothers Gregg and Duane Allman made famous in their golden years with the Allman Brothers. The crowd is ecstatic as the musician pauses again on his street of dreams to perform the haunting melody of "Please Call Home."
Any apprehensions I may have had that this evening would wind up a huge disappointment have gone away. Much of it has to do with the Allman Brothers Band, which is tight and well rehearsed. They feed of the energy of their leader and one another. The current lineup includes Scott Sherrard handling the guitar duties with groove master Jerry Jemmot on bass. Scott Miles keeps a steady beat on the drums while long time associate, Floyd Miles, provides the harmonic element to Gregg's soulful vocals. (Gregg often attributes his introduction to the blues to his close friend). The full spectrum of sound is rounded out with Bruce Katz playing piano / keyboards and Jay Collins on horns.
One of the highlights of the evening will be selections the band plays from Allman's first solo recording in 14 years, Low Country Blues. They include "Just Another Rider," "Floating Bridge" and "Can't Be Satisfied." Released album, released a year earlier, is comprised of all the essential elements that guarantee this disc a distinguished place in the blues hall of fame. The collection features, among others, covers by blues luminaries like Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, BB King and Bobby Bland. It also includes an original collaboration with guitar virtuoso and long time associate, Warren Haynes.
As the woman with the records tries in vain to call attention to her plight, I begin to recall periods of my life where music had literally rescued my soul. As the years rolled off Gregg Allman's fingertips performing one hit after another, I found myself emotionally transported across that endless paradigm of time and space. Waves of emotion swept over me as crowd favorites like "Please Call Home", "Whipping Post" and "Melissa" echoed throughout the venue. The classic, extended jams of each piece rushed over me as I recalled events associated with each tune. I was beginning to fully understand the urgency of the woman's plight before me.
This evening, Gregg Allman and his tight-knit band left their mark on the 2,000 plus souls that ventured forth this New Year day to witness the gospel of the blues. Baring witness to the sermon's the legendary musician preached under the guise of a song should be a mandatory pilgrimage for those who felt they have lost their musical ways this past year. Here's going out on a limb to say catching Gregg Allman in concert should be 2012 resolution you should strongly consider keeping, even if you haven't made it one.
I'm No Angel
Please Call Home
Just Another Rider
You Must Be Crazy
Can't Be Satisfied
Don't Keep Me
One Way Out