Gregg Allman Plays The Birchmere
The Midnight Rider tossed all that aside early in the evening, encouraging the audience to get up and dance, and make as much noise as they wanted. On his first-ever appearance at the Birchmere, and the first of a two-night stand, Allman turned the club into a rowdy roadhouse, and the audience was primed from the jump to help him do it. Shouting, dancing, hooting and hollering, the crowd brought their own energy to play, and egged the laid-back blues singer into a fierce and consistently rewarding performance. Supported by a fine eight-piece band, Allman demonstrated that he still has a fire in his belly.
The night got off to a fast start, opening with “Statesboro Blues.” From there the pace never slackened, as Allman and band dove into “I’m No Angel” and “Come and Go Blues.” On the latter, Allman gave the three-piece horn section room to stretch out, as the rhythm section laid down a groove so deep that the singer’s voice fit inside the moment seamlessly. In that space it felt like Allman wasn’t singing as much as he was channeling the energy of the music itself and of the crowd, a sort of auditory communion taking place.
Commenting on how nice it was to play inside for a change, Allman seemed relaxed and energized. “Trouble No More,” the Muddy Waters standard, was the first song of the night from the Eat a Peach album. Throughout the night Allman returned to the 1972 classic, performing over half of the record. On “Trouble” Scott Sharrard turned in a gritty and greasy slide guitar solo. Later the band returned to the Waters songbook with “I Can’t Be Satisfied.” For this Allman switched to guitar, letting Pete Levin’s barrelhouse piano carry the piece, while the syncopated rhythm brought to mind Bo Diddley.
After a couple more numbers Allman exited the stage, letting the band have a chance to show off. The group launched into a funky instrumental that was well received by the crowd. Allman was back as soon as the song ended and the good times kept rolling. The last three tunes in the fifteen song set were “Melissa,” “Midnight Rider,” and “Whipping Post.” Each song was rewarded with a standing ovation, and calls for more. Allman and company returned for a two song encore. As has been his habit of late, Allman led the band through a fine rendition of Dickey Betts’ “Southbound,” before closing with “One Way Out.” But like the reluctant back door man in the song, no one seemed to be in a hurry to go.