Review: An Exceptional Show From the Allman Brothers Band

Allman Brothers Band/Syria Mosque/The Allman Brothers Band Recording Company
Four Out of Five Stars 

Videos by American Songwriter

Like most other bands that exist in the past rather than the present, the Allman Brothers have been continually revived through a seemingly unending series of live albums that allow their legend to linger on. It’s hardly surprising that the only other band to rival the Allmans in terms of posthumous concert recordings is the Grateful Dead, who, like ABBA built their reputation on their live performances and persistent spontaneity.

However, unlike the Dead, the Allmans—at least at the point when this concert was recorded at Pittsburgh’s Syria Mosque on January 17, 1971—didn’t vary their set lists to any great degree. That was hardly surprising considering the fact that the band was less than two years into their collective career. Consequently, the setlist is the same as that performed on their iconic At the Fillmore East double live album recorded a mere two months later.

Given the band’s penchant for improvisation, the real difference between the Fillmore show and this particular offering resides more in nuance than novelty. That of course has to do mostly with Duane Allman’s and Dickey Betts’ solos and their instinctive interplay in full flight. Gregg  Allman’s vocals resonate as well, probing the deeper depths of ache and emotion, as expressed in such standbys as “Statesboro Blues, “Trouble No More,” Whipping Post,” and of course, “Midnight Rider.” Taken in tandem, it’s obvious, even this early on, that they were a potent band clearly capable of mining absolute inspiration. 

Sadly, the Allman Brothers’ prime performances would be short-lived. Ten months later, Duane Allman would die prematurely and the surviving members would be forced to regroup in his absence. They would continue in different incarnations for another 50 years, but they would never be the same again. Consequently, Syria Mosque ought to be considered nothing less than an essential artifact. 

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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