Southern rogues’ forgotten flight as a moving snapshot of their latter-day monumentality.
This ensemble have proved they needn’t be tied to “Whipping Post” to deliver a riveting show, yet the veterans have also never ceased to surprise not only their fans but themselves as well – and that’s how it was with this performance which seemed so strong that each of the musicians wanted a copy of the recording as soon as they left the stage. The aficionados would wait decade and a half before the band decided to share the double-disc delight with the public who weren’t there and wish they were. Here’s possibly the reason why the artists’ label didn’t bother with assigning the historic document a proper title – because, when a moment is right, nothing matters except for time and a place… and an atmosphere.
It’s a sign of a particularly great mood that the group begin the concert with a sprawling “Mountain Jam” which exposes the breadth of the collective’s dynamics and gradually builds from a delicate strum to a groovy juggernaut to evaporate, give way to more structured tracks – and return for another, nuanced run further down the line, with a similar split of “Leave My Blues At Home” informing the overall flow with a concept feel. Driven by two drum kits and a percussion set who unleash a 14-minute tribal fest at one point, lengthy improvs don’t get insipid even for a single instant: they lend the momentum to a six-string, stereo-panned exchange between Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks – although Gregg Allman’s solemn ivories and Oteil Burbridge’s twangy bass are given ample space to shine, too. Still, while classic pieces such as “Dreams” or “Trouble No More” demonstrate enviable looseness to the ensemble’s instrumental front and vocal roar, the softer cuts from the then-recent “Hittin’ The Note” – “The High Cost Of Low Loving” and “Firing Line” – provide the septet with a chance of tightening up the funky interplay without sacrificing the band’s trademark freedom.
Vice versa, the piano-poked swagger of “Statesboro Blues” and the equally compact harmonies of “Midnight Rider” are counterbalanced once the unexpected soulful covers of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” – voiced by Susan Tedeschi – and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” come into view to stay in the listener’s memory. The same can be said of “Good Morning Little School Girl” that’s rendered rather predatory until the guitarists leave their sparse licks on the ground and roll sliders across the frets for a celestial vibe, taking “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin'” to the wuthering heights, and of “Into The Mystic” whose ethereal spiritually gets a southern flavor here. But whereas “Melissa” and “Jessica” allow the artists indulge in their acoustically tinged and electrically charged, lyrical filigree, the encore of “One Way Out” offers a smooth jaunt to bring all the jive to an audience-abetted close.
Of course, it’s great to hear the ABB in a rough, primal form, yet with a polish they used to be just as brilliant – and this album is the proof.