The Allman Betts Band: More Than Just Good DNA
As Michael Kiwanuka’s “Cold Little Heart” blared from the PA, Devon Allman and Duane Betts took the stage with their eponymous band last night at The Count Basie Center for the Arts. Living up to the legacy of their names as the children of Greg Allman and Dickie Betts of Allman Brothers Band fame, the crowd was treated to an evening of authentic Southern rock with a setlist comprised of both originals from their latest release, Down To the River, and Allman Brothers classics along with other choice covers.
Make no mistake, Allman and Betts are not just riding the coattails of their DNA. Devon Allman’s voice is stirring and soulful, as was his father’s, and even though a chromosomal link to Greg Allman is abundantly apparent, so, too, is the fact that Devon is his own man and has evolved to have a 21st century sound. Duane Betts’ guitar playing also has a similar feel of Allman Brothers’ kinship, yet with a modern edge. And, crazily enough, or maybe not as the Allman Brothers Band have always seemed a little inbred, the family lineage doesn’t stop there as bassist Berry Oakley Jr. is the son of the late Berry Oakley, founding bassist with the Allman Brothers Band from 1969-72.
To further the legitimacy of their ancestral sound with a 21st century twist, the Allman Betts Band utilizes a similar lineup with both drums and percussion. The band is John Lum (drums), R Scott Bryan (percussion), the aforementioned Berry Oakley Jr. (bass), John Ginty (keyboards and B3), and Johnny Stachela (guitar). Interestingly, of the three guitarists on stage, the most noticeable was the one whose name wasn’t on the marquee, Johnny Stachela. Perhaps with the exception of Duane Betts’ solos on the typically exploratory “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” Stachela’s lead and slide guitar contributed the lion’s share of Allman Betts Band’s signature Southern rock sound.
Choice selections from Down To the River showcased the gripping songwriting, soulful vocals and guitar harmonies that make The Allman Betts band one not to be missed. Setlist highlights from their 2019 album included “Shinin’,” “Magnolia Road,” the title track “Down to the River” with opener Jackson Stokes on guitar, and “Long Gone.” “Mahalo,” a song from Devon Allman’s Honeytribe days, prompted Allman to remove his blazer and get down to business amidst the raging B3 organ play from Ginty and some Santana and Clapton-esque guitar play from Stachela.
As is often the case at Count Basie, and in a fashion reminiscent of their forebears at whose concerts more than a few “standing vs. sitting” arguments have ensued, the crowd was both intent on remaining seated and content to do so, leaving their seats for the first time only when prompted to do so by the band for covers of the Allman Brothers’ “Ain’t Wastin’ Time” and “Blue Sky.” For what it’s worth, these songs are likely what the crowd paid to see and the Allman Betts Band did them great justice, playing them like it was their birthright which, indeed, it was. A cover of Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky” also managed its way into the otherwise mostly original set. “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” brought fans to their feet again, and was perhaps the best offering of the evening before a somewhat surprising and highly danceable cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Shakedown Street,” with Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia graphics adorning the screens behind the band while opener J.D. Simo took a guest turn on guitar and Berry Oakley took his first and only lead vocal of the night.
With a finely crafted setlist featuring over two hours of originals and classics, The Allman Betts Band checked all the boxes as they delighted the Tuesday night faithful.
Airboats & Cocaine, Shinin’, Autumn Breeze, Magnolia Road, Ain’t Wastin’ Time, Blue Sky, Taking Time, Mahalo, You Got Lucky, Good Ol’ Days, All Night, Melodies Are Memories, In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, Shakedown Street.
Encore: Down To the River, Long Gone
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