Concert review: Gregg and Devon Allman keep it all in the family at the Pageant, Tuesday, January 3
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legend and original Allman Brothers Band member Gregg Allman returned to St. Louis last night for a sold-out show at the Pageant.
Allman is currently touring in support of his recent album of classic blues covers, “Low Country Blues,” nominated for a Grammy for Best Blues Album of 2011. Keeping things “family style,” as the Allmans are known to do, Gregg’s son Devon Allman and his St. Louis-based band Honeytribe opened the show.
The main floor, typically all general admission, was lined with rows of chairs up to the back railings, which were sold as assigned seats, in addition to the upper balcony seats. This gave the Pageant a bit more of an intimate, theater feeling (and made me wonder why he didn’t opt to play the Peabody instead). With Allman’s fan base aging, as he is, most folks remained seated throughout the show — making for a bit mellower of a scene than the Pageant is typically accustomed to.
The show also included a charitable element with canned food being collected on site for Rock CAN Roll, used instruments being collected for donation to area schools by local grassroots organization Play It Forward and folks from Strings for a Cure — all music-related charities.
Play It Forward’s co-director Samantha Fischer kicked off the show with an introduction to the organization and what they do to further music education in St. Louis, followed by a glowing introduction of “St. Louis’ own” Devon Allman and Honeytribe.
The three-piece blues rock band led by Allman also features bass player extraordinaire George Potsos and drummer Justin Hanson. However, former drummer Gabriel Strange sat in on this show for Hanson, who recently injured his hand. They got the crowd ready to rock with their own heavy jams, including “Heaven Has No Mercy” and “Mahalo,” as well as an inspired cover of the Allman Brothers Band classic “Midnight Rider,” featuring an incredible and lengthy guitar solo by Devon, his face winced and contorted as he paid respect to his musical heritage. There is no question that this music runs through his blood, and it was a rare treat to see him share a stage with his father, who although Devon didn’t actually meet until his teens, has had a clear musical influence. Potsos gave an outstanding bass solo as well (backed by Strange). For a three-piece band, Honeytribe had no trouble filling the Pageant with a rich, full sound.
After a brief break, Gregg Allman finally took the stage, slowly crossing to take his seat behind the massive Hammond B3 organ that is his signature. He eased into his set with the laid back “I’m No Angel,” a solo hit from the ’80s. He then proceeded to dig in with lively Allman Brothers classic “Statesboro Blues,” which featured a terrific sax solo by Jay Collins. Allman’s own band is quite simply amazing — particularly guitarist Scott Sharrard (sounding at times like a young Dickey Betts), keyboardist Bruce Katz and percussionist/vocalist Floyd Miles (whom Allman declared his oldest friend). Bassist Jerry Jemmott and drummer Steve Potts provide the backbone.
Allman slowed things down a bit for “Tears, Tears, Tears,” from “Low Country Blues.” Named one of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time” by Rolling Stone magazine, Allman’s growly but soulfully smooth voice still sounded good, although he seemed to perhaps be fighting a cold. He kept a box of tissues handy atop his organ, blowing his nose occasionally, and when he spoke, his voice sounded a bit hoarse. No stranger to health problems, including a 2010 liver transplant as a result of Hepatitis C, Allman may be road worn, but he is still a musical force and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.
Floyd Miles took center stage to handle vocals for a few songs (perhaps to give Gregg a rest), and Devon returned to the stage as well for a killer cover of “Born Under a Bad Sign.” He stayed to share guitar duties for Allman Brothers staple “Dreams,” offering another amazing solo as his dad beamed with pride from behind the organ.
The upbeat Muddy Waters classic “I Can’t Be Satisfied” provided another opportunity for Katz to tear up the keyboard, followed by a decidedly funky version of ABB’s “Wasted Words.” Gregg then strapped on an acoustic guitar, announcing an “old song — the first song I ever wrote” as he began the opening chords of the beautiful “Melissa.”
Floyd Miles returned for the bluesy “Goin’ Back to Daytona” before Gregg took over again to end the show with fan favorite “Whipping Post,” to great cheers from the crowd. After a brief backstage break, the full band returned for an encore including “Floating Bridge,” a Sleepy John Estes tune from “Low Country Blues” and Allman Brothers jam “One Way Out.”
Playing for nearly two hours, Gregg Allman and his band left the audience feeling mostly satisfied. My only complaint (if there could be one) is that he chose to play guitar over the organ on quite a few of the songs. While he’s a skilled guitarist, I would have preferred to hear him on the Hammond more, especially with a guitarist as adept as Sharrard in the lineup. Overall, though it was a fine night of multi-generational Allman music and a firm reminder that the classics never go out of style.