Allman Bros and Widespread Panic provide shelter from the storm

A review of the Allman Brothers Band and Widespread Panic at Comcast Center on August 29, 2009

, Staff Writer

As another nearby tropical weather system harassed the New England coast with downpours and chilly temperatures, a few thousand hardy souls trekked to the Comcast Center, set up tents, and started prepping for a night of noodling jams and crazy guitar solos. A couple hours before showtime, the rain let up to a mist, the wind eased just a bit, and rigid fingers began to stretch and thaw just in time for two blistering performances by the Allman Brothers Band and Widespread Panic.

The parking lot wasn’t quite the same atmosphere due to the rain, but that didn’t damper anything going on under the shed, and when Widespread Panic stepped onstage to greet the damp and soggy crowd, the energy arrived. Opening with a big, thumpy “C. Brown,” guitarist Jimmy Herring led Panic into a heady, energetic set that gave everyone exactly what they wanted. The first half of the set was a showcase of Herring’s dirty guitar playing, featuring impressive work by the once-Allman’s guitarist as the band tore through “Space Wrangler,” then “Porch Song,” which segued into the triumphant “Stop Breakin’ Down Blues.” Dave Schools put on a clinic for bass players, seamlessly driving the beat and laying down a lead at the same time. Combined with dueling percussionists and a plethora of drums to pound on, Widespread Panic features a monster of a rhythm section.
Eventually the inevitable cross-pollination began occurring, and Allman Brothers’ guitarist Derek Trucks stepped in for a funky cover of the Meter’s “It Ain’t No Use,” his mellow slide bringing contrast to Herring’s busy riffs. Trucks stuck around to jam on Panic’s “Blight” then made way for Warren Haynes, who absolutely killed it on “Smokestack Lightning” and helped close things out on Chilly Water.”

The Allman Brothers Band entered in full force, with 61-year old Gregg growling his way through “Don’t Want You No More” and “It’s Not My Cross to Bear.” Any bluesman’s voice benefits from the ravages of age, and Gregg’s is no exception. “Midnight Rider” and “Good Morning Little School Girl” showcased his vocal stylings and sounded as good as they ever have.

Gregg Allman may be the band’s namesake and a legend of rock n roll, but today’s Allman Brothers Band is the story of Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes. The two guitar gods took their place front and center, inviting members of Widespread Panic to cross-pollinate on a few tracks, most notably an epic half-hour rendition of “Mountain Jam,” which soared over peaks, burrowed deep into the earth, then swung around and landed right in the wheelhouse. Joined by Jimmy Herring and Dave Schools, the event was consummate noodle session. Starting off in typical wook-jam fashion, the jam (and the concert) hit its peak when Trucks, Haynes, and Herring thundered into “Dazed and Confused.” Jimmy Page, eat your heart out. This performance made everyone wish Herring would just tour with the Allman Brothers all the time.

Three of the most influential guitarists alive hammering on one of the greatest rock songs ever is hard to top, but the bass duel that followed came pretty close. Painting a trippy, psychedelic soundscape, Oteil Burbridge and Dave Schools did their best to show that even the best guitar player needs a solid bass player (or two) to back him up.

The Brothers returned sans extra guests for a burning encore of “Whipping Post,” which is their best song ever. Heady and intoxicating, the show was a brilliant celebration of the Allman Brothers 40-year anniversary and a testament to the lasting influence they’ve had on American music.

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