Gregg Allman grew up in Daytona, and his band is synonymous with Georgia, but the veteran road dog and traveling music man was born, fittingly, in Nashville, Tennessee. Which made last night’s gig at the Ryman Auditorium a homecoming of sorts. It was a show that found Allman mixing Allman Brothers Band staples with songs from his acclaimed solo album, Low Country Blues, which was produced by T Bone Burnett.
Fronting a six-piece band, Allman looked much healthier than the last time he graced the Ryman stage. Back in October, when he received the Lifetime Achievement In Performance honor at the Americana Music Awards, the 64-year old looked tired and frail (Allman suffers from Hepatitis C and received a liver transplant in 2010). But on Wednesday, he was full of vigor, manning his trademark Hammond organ, and occasionally switching over to acoustic (“Melissa”) and electric guitar (for “Whipping Post”). The highlight may have been their impassioned cover of Muddy Waters’ “I Can’t Be Satisfied” from Low Country Blues.
The crowd was hot for Allman all night, and with good reason. He’s somewhat of a cult figure and local hero in the South, and to catch him there is to catch him in his element. You may “peak” at the Beacon, the New York City venue where his other band has a longtime residency, but Gregg’s legendary gritty voice and intoxicating blend of blues and soul music is best appreciated south of Jersey.
In fact, the crowd may have been a little too hot. As the encore rolled around following a rearranged “Whipping Post” (the band makes up for the lack of multiple guitars on Allman Bros. songs by highlighting the sax and keyboards), two concert attendees ended up in a scuffle, which lead to a knife fight. I guess rock and roll is still dangerous, no matter how old the person making it is.
Opening the show was Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band, lead by original Allman Brothers Band drummer Jaimoe, who whetted the audience’s appetite with some impressive jazz-rock fusion.