I approached the recent Dickey Betts concert at The Concert Hall at the Ethical Culture Society, in Manhattan, with some trepidation. There may have been some pure "Dickey Betts and Great Southern" fans in attendance, but let's face it, almost everybody there was a curious Allman Brothers fan. The unspoken question was....
Do the Allmans miss Dickey more than Dickey misses the Allmans? I had been pondering this since last year, when I saw the Allmans at the Beacon and found it strangely disappointing. I count myself as a true old time Allman Brothers fan. Live at the Fillmore and Eat a Peach have always been my "go to" albums. I knew what was missing at the Beacon....Dickey Betts and HIS Allman tunes.
My big fear was that Dickey Betts would do "his own stuff" and not do much Allmans. I was willing to cut him some slack for some of his newer material.....I give this courtesy to any "classic" concert artist. Hopefully though, he'd give us what we all wanted.
When Dickey Betts and Great Southern took the stage, there was an odd familiarity in the composition of the band. Two drummers (one black, one white), bass player, two guitarists, a keyboard man/singer with long blond hair and a mustache, and Dickey Betts. This Allmanesque assemblage went deep into the Allman's/Dickey catalogue and rocked the house for two and a half hours.
The show opened with "Les Brers in A Minor", a rockin' instrumental from Eat a Peach. This was followed by "Statesboro Blues" and "You Don't Love Me". OK, neither Dickey Betts nor the Gregg Allman look-alike sang like Gregg, but nobody does. Statesboro Blues is not about the singing, since everyone in the audience was doing their own singing, it's about the guitar playing. And....Dickey Betts still has it!!!
There were a few songs I didn't know, but I knew the style and it felt just fine. I thought Dickey said something about Gerry Garcia, but I couldn't tell because the speech definition on his mic was bad. Or perhaps it's the way he speaks....every time he spoke it sounded like Pootie Tang. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGwl2iKotgM In any event, there were some songs that had a "Dead" sound to them, and they worked.
I don't think the Allmans do "Blue Sky", the quintessential Dickey Betts song. I had to get up and dance in the aisle when Dickey did it. Here's a youtube clip....from the actual concert. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cc_p_D2k7Qg&feature=related
Are you a true Allman Brothers fan? If so, you'd have loved hearing "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed". It's a haunting instrumental where you can feel the guitars singing. I've always wondered "What is this song about....what are the guitars SAYING???" I still don't know, but it sure sounded good. At one point the band left the stage while the two drummers went at it for about 20 minutes. This was "old school" and most excellent. After about 18 minutes Dickey walked out, pulled a cold Bud from the cooler, then sat on the cooler and watched.
I knew they were going to close the show with Ramblin' Man. This was probably the Allman's most widely known song, and it's Dickey's song all the way. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hnwPHUDmrg&feature=related
There may be aficianados who see every Allman Brothers show at the Beacon, and compare and contrast and analyze.
To my simple eye and ear, the Allmans miss Dickey more than vice versa, and I'll see him again before I go back to the Beacon.