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Gregg Allman plays up a storm at Penn's Peak

  • JOE PLASKO/TIMES NEWS Gregg Allman sings during his Penn's Peak concert Wednesday night.
    JOE PLASKO/TIMES NEWS Gregg Allman sings during his Penn's Peak concert Wednesday night.
Published January 01. 2010 05:00PM

It didn't take Gregg Allman long to hit his stride.

From the moment he took to the Penn's Peak stage Wednesday night with a bluesy take on "Don't Keep Me Wonderin'", Allman and his crack six-piece band lived up to the tradition he has established.

To paraphrase the title of his 1977 solo album, Allman can still play up a storm.

The Allman Brothers Band celebrated 40 years in 2009, and as a founding member, vocalist and keyboardist, Gregg Allman's contributions to American music, Southern style, are part of the legend that landed ABB into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

That particular road does go on forever, as fans continue to flock to see the current configuration of ABB perform its magic.

A crowd of over 1,400 was on hand at The Peak to see what Gregg had up his sleeves without the Brothers.

ABB is revered for its interpretative powers, to the point where the band's technique helped spawn a generation of Southern rock and jam bands. On his solo tours, the 62 year-old Gregg gets to put his spin on Allman Brothers' classics, including those he penned himself.

With his long blonde hair flying loose, Allman spent most of the performance in his accustomed spot behind his Hammond organ, stepping out to play guitar at various points in the show.

Allman's voice remains a soulful instrument, capable of tackling the blues, as on his ABB standard "Dreams; revving up some straight ahead rock ("Before the Bullets Fly"); and taking his ballad "Melissa" and making it sound more wistful each time he sings it. It's hard to think of a current rock vocalist who brings a wider musical scope to the stage than Gregg.

His biggest solo hit, 1987's "I'm No Angel", made an early appearance as his second song. While it is an ode to his outlaw image, it also showed the command Allman has, as he performed it with a casual assurance.

Allman's love for rhythm and blues is evident, as his solo band is built to bring out that aspect of the songs. Saxophonist Jay Collins does much on stage towards this end, particularly when he gets to soar on "Turn On Your Lovelight".

As a frontman, Allman is generous to his sidemen. Percussionist Floyd Miles took over the lead vocals for three swinging, R&B based tunes, "You Must Be Crazy", "Back to Daytona" and a power-packed "Born Under a Bad Sign".

In return, the band kept their solo turns economical, as opposed to the ABB's often endless jamming. The rhythm section of drummer Steve Potts and bassist Jerry Jemmott got their breaks in during "Lovelight", and Bruce Katz got to show off his sterling keyboard work in quick flashes.

Guitarist Scott Sharrard wasn't out there to mimic ABB's Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks but presented some sharp slide work when called upon.

A grizzled road warrior, Allman is unflappable. When an acoustic guitar failed when he tried to strum the intro to "Midnight Rider", he patiently waited for another one. "It's seen too many nights," he joked, but in the end, he proved to have more staying power than his instrument.

There were plenty of highlights. "Please Call Home" still sounds inviting for "an old song", as Gregg referred to it. Two Haynes songs, "Just Another Rider" as well as "Bullets", added some edge. Gregg pulled out an acoustic guitar for a reverent rendition of "Floating Bridges".

The ABB repertoire got a good workout at the end of the set. "Midnight Rider" eventually took off. Sharrard's slide guitar revved up "One Way Out", and "Whipping Post" was transformed into an R&B chestnut rather than its usual ABB improvisational tour de force.

For his encore, Gregg dipped into his Playin' Up a Storm album for "Sweet Feeling", then delivered a roaring "Statesboro Blues" that left the crowd wanting more.

Gregg Allman continues to pack a musical wallop, with a few twists and turns thrown in, but that's not really a secret, as ABB fans have long discovered.

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