Peaking at The Beacon with Warren Haynes
Photo by Dean Budnick
The Allman Brothers Band will open their 2012 Beacon Theatre run tonight in New York City. On Wednesday, we spoke with Warren Haynes shortly after he wrapped up rehearsal with the group. Haynes offered some thoughts on what is to come this year at the venue. SPOILER ALERT: while Warren offered only a few details, some of them are quite exciting. If you’d prefer to experience it all live in the moment, hold off on reading the conversation below.
Beyond the Beacon, Haynes has had quite an amazing few weeks, performing with both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (on separate occasions), as well as rejoining Phil Lesh and Friends, Rambling in place of Levon Helm and working with Gov’t Mule on a new studio album. For his take on all of these events (as well as his thought on the forthcoming DVD with the Warren Haynes Band), stop by Relix.com for that portion of the interview.
For now, we offer Haynes on the Allman Brothers Band’s Beacon Theater shows…
In terms of an ABB rehearsal, I know that our readers would love some insight, a window into what it’s like. How regimented is it? Do you work through entire songs, do you focus on passages that people want to rearrange or revisit?
Well, since this is going to appear on Friday, I guess saying it on the day of the first show is not such a big deal…we’re going to be doing an acoustic set this year at the beginning of the second set. It’s the first time in over a decade that we’ve done an acoustic set. As of now we’re planning on opening every second set with a few acoustic numbers, which is going to be really fun and challenging. We’ve been spending a lot of time rehearsing that stuff—coming up with songs we’ve never performed before and taking songs that we have performed before and turning them into acoustic versions.
As far as the electric stuff, anything that someone feels like we should go over that we might play, we’ll go through it but especially things that are going to change. We’re doing some songs we’ve never done before. We’re doing some segues and sandwiches we’ve never done before. We’re bringing back some instrumentals we haven’t done in a while.
It’s really just about trying to make sure every year is a little bit different and, especially since we do so many nights, that we repeat as little as possible. So, we’re preparing a lot of stuff for this acoustic set but we’re also working on situations where a song may go into a jam that it’s never gone into before. But for a lot of the songs, it’s good to go through them to regain everybody’s confidence on how they go. Even some of the ones that we play a lot, it’s nice to play them at least once and see if everything feels right and if there’s anything we want to change. Sometimes somebody will get an idea for a song we’ve been playing in a certain arrangement for a long time and may say, “Hey, why don’t we change this? Why don’t we add something to it, or subtract something from it, or put a new jam in the middle, or go into another song and go back into this song?” So those sorts of things always get brought up at rehearsal.
I’m sure most of our readers would prefer those new songs to be surprises but in terms of a standard that someone in the band wants to revisit and rearrange, it would be fascinating to hear about that from the inside out. Can you share an example?
As an example, the song “Rocking Horse,” that gets played by Gov’t Mule and by the Allman Brothers is a completely different arrangement from one to the other. And in the last couple of years we’ve changed “Rocking Horse” to where it goes into a 6/8 jam in a major key that was never in there before. It’s almost going to a whole other song in the middle of the song and then back to 4/4 and then back to the theme. Those sort of things get brought up.
There’s something cool we’re going to do in the middle of “Hot ‘Lanta” this year that’s never been done. The same arrangement of “Hot ‘Lanta” has been played the same since 1970. And now we’ve decided, “Let’s open it up and stretch it out a little bit and maybe even lead to another song in the middle.” So, that’ll be a nice surprise. We’ll do that with a few songs—we’ll start one song, then segue way into another song and then back into the original song, or in some cases not go back into the original song. In some cases it’ll be different on a nightly basis.
As for the precipitating factor that led to the acoustic set, how did that come about?
Derek [Trucks] and I have been talking about it a lot. Over the last couple years Derek and I have done stuff like, “Preachin’ Blues,” which is a Son House song, with just the two of us. And there are a few things we’d pull out, like “Old Friend,” which I wrote and was on the Hittin’ The Note record. The last show in Boston at the Orpheum [12/2/11] the two of us did “Working Class Hero,” the John Lennon song. And people really liked it.
So we started talking about some of the stuff that’s fun to do acoustically and have the dynamic change. Then I started talking to Gregg and everybody about how it would be different and everybody jumped on the idea in that we haven’t done that in over ten years and it would be nice to bring it back. In the past week or so we’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about it, working on it and figuring out what songs we can do at rehearsal. It feels great.