Allman Family Revival

by Kevin Wierzbicki

Allman Family Revival - Feb. 17, 2022 - Arizona Federal Theatre, Phoenix AZ

Maybe not everyone in the audience realized who was speaking when this show began with a bit of taped spoken word, but it was the late Gregg Allman, the person whose music was celebrated by family and friends throughout the evening. Allman spoke about how bands feed off of the crowd and how being on stage was such a powerful thing for him that he didn't feel any of the pains he might have been suffering from while he was performing.

Organized by his son Devon Allman several years ago, the annual Allman Family Revival shows honor the memory of Gregg and his music with performances of his material, both solo and with the Allman Brothers. The Allman Betts Band, featuring Devon Allman and Duane Betts, the son of Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dickey Betts, were the core band for the evening with other luminaries hopping on and off the stage throughout the show. And what a show it was!

A four-song, 15-minute set from the St. Louis-based River Kittens opened the show. Consisting of Allie Vogler and Mattie Schell, the pair harmonized flawlessly while accompanying themselves on acoustic guitar and mandolin. Two songs came from the latest River Kittens release Soaking Wet: "Trouble" and the humorous and slightly naughty 'Dressing on the Side." The ladies ended their set with a heartfelt cover of the old Faces song "Ooh La La"

The Allman Betts Band kicked off the main portion of the show with their own "Magnolia Road," a very Allman Brothers-esque cut where pictures of gorgeous magnolia trees in bloom were projected onto the screen at the back of the stage. With Duane singing, the band then launched into the sax-enhanced "King Crawler;" Devon took over on lead vocals for "Southern Rain" which led into the first Allman Brothers song of the evening, "Dreams." "Dreams" also was the first song of the evening to feature one of the concert's special guests, Luther Dickinson. Dickinson played a sizzling guitar solo on the track after Allman and Betts did the same. Dickinson stuck around to play "Up and Rolling," a cut from his band the North Mississippi Allstars, and to solo again on the sunny Allman Brothers cut "Blue Sky." Betts played lead guitar on the instrumental "Jessica," fitting since his dad wrote the song.

Guitarist Marc Ford joined the band as did singer/harmonica player Jimmy Hall for a fantastic rendition of the old Wet Willie hit "Keep on Smilin'." The song is always a crowd favorite wherever Hall sings it, and tonight he and the band performed an extended version of the chestnut, with Ford soloing, River Kittens on background vocals and Hall himself raving the song up with the intensity of a gospel tent revival preacher. The song turned into one of the most raucous moments of the evening. Ford remained with the band through takes on Blind Willie McTell's "Statesboro Blues" and Muddy Waters' "Trouble No More," both of which were also famously covered by the Allman Brothers.

After a brief intermission the band returned to play a handful of songs and they were loaded with guest stars. Pedal steel guitar master Robert Randolph came on to feature on the Allman Brothers tune "No One Left to Run With" and his own "The March," after which the band played a surprise cover of Roy Orbison's "You Got It" with Devon on lead vocals. The reason for that particular choice was that Alex "Orbie" Orbison, Roy's son, was sitting in on drums for the evening replacing an under-the-weather R. Scott Bryan. The stage really came alive when Samantha Fish, dressed as a rock 'n' roll vixen, came on to show off powerhouse vocals and guitar playing on her own "Better Be Lonely." Fish showed another side when she toned it down to sing the aching Allman Brothers tune "Please Call Home." Fish remained on stage and Devon called out all the other guest guitarists for another Allman Brothers jam that traces its roots back to the blues; Sonny Boy Williamson's "One Way Out."

The evening of stellar musicianship from all, including third Allman Betts Band guitarist Johnny Stachela, came to an end with "Midnight Rider." With everyone in the audience knowing the song and singing and grooving along, the finale certainly emphasized the family aspect of the Allman Family Revival.

The current Allman Family Revival Tour has only two dates remaining, Feb. 22 in Los Angeles and Feb. 24 in Las Vegas. Otherwise the plan is to launch the 6th iteration of the Allman Family Revival Tour is the fall of 2022. Keep up with Allman Betts Band happenings here.

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