Last week in Charlotte, North Carolina was the hottest week I've encountered since I moved here over five years ago. In fact, the August 8th temperature of 104 degrees tied the all-time record for the hottest day the city has ever seen.
Unfortunately for the Drive-By Truckers and The Allman Brothers Band, this was also the week they performed at Charlotte's Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in an outdoor venue fully exposed to the heat. I was dreading sitting among a huge, sweaty crowd for so long, but I wouldn't miss a show like this for the world. But although hot and uncomfortable at times, it was worth every drop of sweat that fell from my body. I would have gladly sacrificed even more to be present at this incredible show.
The Drive-By Truckers put on a fine performance and took the brunt of the heat before the sun went down. Their sound was muddy, and instruments kept fading in and out, but sound-system issues aside, they were tons of fun, and a perfect warm-up act for the mighty Allman Brothers. I could write pages of positive words on the DBT performance, but coming before the ABB is a hard act to follow.
The Allman Brothers Band has had 12 different line-ups since their beginning back in 1969, and the current incarnation had me extremely excited. This may be the most powerful roster the band has seen yet (sorry Dickey). Of the 7 band members the only original members are Gregg Allman (Vocals, Organ, Piano, Guitar), Butch Trucks (Drums, Tympani), and Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson (Drums, Percussion). Percussionist Marc Quinones has been with the band since 1991, bassist Oteil Burbridge since 1997. And since 2001 the line-up also includes both Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes on the guitars.
To put it bluntly, this was the best show I have seen all year. It was a reminder of why the jam band genre is so popular and why the no one can touch the Allman Brothers Band when it comes to the current population of jam bands working today.
These are seven musicians who are complete masters of their craft. Every one of them not only contributed to the whole, but each stole the show at various times during the performance. Trucks and Haynes were simply mesmerizing, with Haynes providing detailed, flawless guitar and Derek taking slide guitar to a level not yet seen by mankind. Both did so in an unpretentious way that never distracted from the performance as a whole.
The rhythm section kept a backbeat that was a strong as iron, but peppered with the kind of complexities and dynamic surges that you simply can't achieve with a single drummer.
Gregg sat in his B3 throne like a gentle king providing sweet organ and piano backgrounds. For the encore, Gregg came out from behind the keys to perform the only acoustic guitar based number of the night with the perpetually popular "Melissa," penned 40 years ago.
If a new law was passed and music was forced to become like sport, with only the very best having the ability of going pro, the Allman brothers would have nothing to worry about.
They're still at the top of their game, and if you haven't seen the current line-up make a point to do so. Never mind the weather.