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Allman Brothers Band
w/Little Charlie & the Nightcats
@ Northrop Auditorium, August 12, 1998
by Ann Wickstrom
An odd pairing, no? Stylistically, the Nightcats and the Allman Brothers are miles apart. I'm certain that this gig exposed the 'Cats to ABB fans who had never heard of them before, much less seen them. Charlie and the boys played a few tunes alone, including their now-famous "Wrap It Up", and were then joined by John Hammond on vocals and guitar. They did two Little Walter tunes, one of which was "I'm Just Your Fool". Slick Rick Estrin proved what a truly top-notch player he is by switching harp styles to match the sound of Sonny Boy Williamson on "Don't Start Me Talkin'". Charlie Baty was his usual amazing self, dishing out some incredible guitar solos with his contortionist's fingers and herky-jerky body moves. This guy is a real spellbinder when it comes to swing. Catch him at Famous Dave's in October and witness the fretboard spectacle that is Little Charlie Baty. You will not believe your eyes and ears.

Giant tapestries featuring colorful mushrooms were hung in the corners of the theater to denote the Allman Brothers new album, MYCOLOGY: An Anthology (mycology being an area of botany dealing with fungi). Concertgoers from 10 to 60 let loose with a roar when the lights dimmed for the band. In addition to Gregg Allman, ABB currently boasts three other original members: Dickey Betts, Butch Trucks and Jaimoe. They've also added Oteil Burbridge (Aquarium Rescue Unit) on bass and Jack Pearson (Bobby "Blue" Bland, Delbert McClinton) on guitar. Long-time percussionist Marc Quinones is still in the band, too. It was really interesting to watch all three drummers doing their thing, separately yet together.

I was expecting to see Gregg Allman with his long golden hair sweeping across his face, but he wore it in a braided ponytail and actually seemed to maintain a fairly low profile behind his piano. They started off with "Statesboro Blues" as the giant video screen behind them flashed images of mushrooms, the ABB logo, and various old black and white stills of blues pioneers like Robert Johnson. Next they played "Blue Sky" to images of Native Americans and eagles flying over canyons on the screen, and then "Stand Back".

Newcomer Jack Pearson is a heck of a guitar player-especially slide-but is the most subdued musician I've ever seen. He sat on a stool for the entire show, nonchalantly puffing on cigarettes as he played effortlessly and without expression, barely moving a muscle other than his fingers.

There were so many things to note about this show, from the bright gobs of goo melding and melting on the screen, to the mid-show acoustic set by Allman, Pearson, Betts and Burbridge, to the triple drum solo in which Trucks took to the timpani drums and just about pounded the roof off of the place. They played "Hot 'Lanta", Robert Johnson's "Come On in My Kitchen", "Melissa", Willie Cobb's "You Don't Love Me", "Dreams", "End of the Line" and "One Way Out". For me, though, the highlights would have to be the most jammin' version of "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" and the encore, "No One to Run With Anymore". For this one, live images of the band were super-imposed on the big screen with performance clips of great ones who have gone on: Stevie Ray, Hendrix, Muddy, Freddie and Albert King, Duane Allman, Jerry Garcia, Bill Graham and others. At times it looked like the Allman Brothers were playing right alongside them, and it was enough to leave this blues fan with a lump in the throat and a tear in the eye.

This review is copyright © 1998 by Ann Wickstrom, all rights reserved.

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Copyright © 1998 by Ray M. Stiles
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.