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Published: 2013/03/09
by Larson Sutton

Allman Brothers Band
Macon City Auditorium 2/11/72, Nassau Coliseum 5/1/73

When it was announced that the Allman Brothers Band would be releasing two vintage-era concert recordings, from 1972 and 1973 respectively, fans were quick to point out that this duo had been available for over eight years. True, these two shows had been first issued by the band’s official recording company back in 2004, and there was little to indicate that this latest incarnation was anything more than a reminder of their existence, rather than a re-issue with updated material. Regardless, here is what these discs are, rather than what they are not.

The Macon City Auditorium appearance of February 2, 1972 is the first public assemblage of the band following the death of its founder and leader Duane Allman. That alone marks this evening as incredibly significant in the group’s history, and it is with much curiosity that each song unfolds throughout the set. What will they play? How will it sound without the dueling lead guitars? Will Dickey Betts play slide?

Those and most other lingering questions are answered immediately with “Statesboro Blues,” an opener filled with defiance, tribute, and resilience. As much as they are saying good-bye to their brother, they are also stating very clearly that this unit will survive and thrive. The band is brilliant over the course of the two discs, particularly shining on the 20+minutes of “You Don’t Love Me.”

Despite this powerful, moving night of music, there is no avoiding Duane’s absence. The performances, while deeply impressive, could not be the same without him. The lack of that second lead instrument is at times glaring, and yet this is exactly what makes this album so intriguing and unique. If this was the first time one had heard the band, it would near impossible to not be captivated, but in the shadow of At Fillmore East and Eat A Peach (released just days after this concert), it remains noble, inspired, but bitter sweetly shy of the transcendence achieved with Duane.

Perhaps the band recognized the value of that second lead complement in their lineup as 15 months later they would take to Nassau Coliseum on May 1, 1973, now with Chuck Leavell on keyboards emulating Duane’s guitar parts and adding some classic riffs of his own. Additionally, bassist Lamar Williams had been tapped following the death of Berry Oakley. These changes and the emergence of Dickey Betts’ country-leaning songwriting demonstrated a shift away from the electric blues of the original to a slightly gentler sextet. Leavell’s solo breaks reflect a jazzier, near-fusion inclination and Williams’ bass is smoother, less of the gallop that Oakley possessed. Highlights from the set come mainly from the Brothers and Sisters material, including “Jessica” and “Ramblin’ Man”- particularly the latter, a song that at this point had not been released and become the ubiquitous radio staple or guaranteed live set piece, instead here a work-in-progress that sparkles in its novelty.

The Macon City and Nassau shows are both transitional moments for the Allman Brothers Band. This is the sound of musicians moving on from the deaths of such integral figures, not just in the creative direction of the group, but the spirit and personality as well; a feat that would seem too difficult for most. In spite of such hurdles, the Allman Brothers Band reached its highest point of commercial success in the coming year following the Nassau concert. The music is what kept them together, and in turn their devotion to it delivered them from such tragic circumstances. At their best these emotionally charged and focused sets recall how special these were, if sadly reminiscent of what they could never be again.

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