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Words by: Rich Lieberman :: Images by: Dino Perrucci
Warren Haynes & Friends :: 03.28.07 :: Irving Plaza :: New York, NY
Whenever Warren Haynes decides to throw a party and invite some of his musician friends to join in the festivities, run and get your tickets quick. As a guitar player, singer and songwriter, Haynes is one of the very best AND he's played with the best. Currently doing a 15-show run with the Allman Brothers Band at their 13th annual residency at the Beacon Theatre in NYC, Haynes found an off night for another memorable guest-laden performance. "This party is to re-launch the [Evil Teen] label, to re-launch what was Wintertime Blues and is now The Benefit Concert [series], to just get the awareness going, to get people buzzin' about things," Haynes told us before the show. "It's going to be an allstar jam, and it's going to be a lot of fun!"
Haynes, Freed, Kinney, McCain :: 03.28.07
Securing a ticket for this show was next to impossible unless you were one of the 300 lucky fans that lined up at a NYC record store in Union Square. Each received tickets to the show and access to a pre-show CD signing. "This is kinda like a condensed version of the Christmas Jam," explained Haynes. "We're all excited. Who knows what will happen musically? A lot of it won't be decided until right there on the spot." Haynes began his annual Christmas Jam benefit concerts 18 years ago in Ashville, NC, and this great tradition has grown by leaps and bounds each year. The shows have helped raise over $600,000 for Habitat for Humanity alone.
Warren Haynes :: 03.28.07
It was almost 10 p.m. as the house lights went down on the packed ballroom. Haynes walked out alone into a lone spotlight with his acoustic guitar to open with a soulful "A Million Miles From Yesterday." Haynes said, "I wrote that song at least 10 or 15 years ago. I started revisiting it and somewhere in the process of putting the songs together for High & Mighty I stumbled across what I felt was the finished version. It's an introspective song. It's very personal. It's 'A Million Miles From Yesterday' so as much as that [phrase] meant when I started writing it, it couldn't possibly mean as much as it does now. For me to be able to go back and finally finish that song really meant a lot to me. I am really pleased with the way it turned out and glad that the song has re-emerged."
Warren invited Kofi Burbridge out to accompany him on Dave Mason's "Sad and Deep As You," where Burbridge's flute wove in and out of Haynes's guitar in a haunting way. Old friend Edwin McCain came up next, and the duo played "Sign On The Door" from McCain's 1999 release, Messenger, and a wonderful take on Seal's "Crazy." Haynes brought up former Drivin' N' Cryin' frontman Kevn Kinney to play a couple of his tunes with he and McCain. Then, to the crowds' delight, the lovely Susan Tedeschi was asked to help sing Dylan's "I Shall Be Released." Haynes took the first verse, Kinney the second, Tedeschi took the next verse and asked McCain to help her with the final verse.
Mattison, Tedeschi, Trucks, McCain :: 03.28.07
Tedeschi stayed on stage for her own short solo set, and Haynes announced, "It's gonna be a long night. There is a lot of great music coming up, but one thing we promise is that there's a lot of great music that will never be played this way again." Tedeschi performed an exceptional cover of Ray LaMontagne's "Shelter." During the song, she admitted to the crowd that she was a bit nervous. She must have shrugged those nerves off quickly as she came back later in the evening to add some spine-tingling vocals with the Derek Trucks Band. She just about blew the roof off of Irving Plaza with her rendition of The Band's "The Weight."
Susan Tedeschi :: 03.28.07
Next, Gregg Allman and Warren Haynes stood side-by-side with their acoustic guitars. "This is a song off my very first LP," said Allman, introducing a sweet version of "All My Friends" followed by a gorgeous take on Jackson Browne's morose classic, "These Days." Warren admits since rejoining The Allman Brothers in 2001 his musical relationship with Gregg has really developed. "We attempted to take it to a new level in recent years and with great success. Possibly because we know each other that much better, we just gained each other's trust, which is very important," explained Haynes.
And that did it for the acoustic part of the evening. Each song had been carefully chosen by each artist and played with heartfelt emotion, drawing deeply from the heart of the material, which touched on old days, old friends, friends lost, mistakes made and lessons learned. In this intimate setting it all flowed brilliantly.
Haynes & Allman :: 03.28.07
After a ten-minute break, the stage was set up in the familiar configuration. As Jaimoe and Butch Trucks took their seats at the drums and Oteil Burbridge strapped on his bass, the packed house erupted. The Allman Brothers Band was about to play Irving Plaza! Derek Trucks, then Haynes and Allman came out with big smiles. In the midst of 15 sold out shows at the Beacon, here they were about to play to a lucky few souls at one of the city's smallest venues.
They wasted no time, kicking into "Come And Go Blues." There was little room to dance on the floor, as they launched into "Jessica." It was a fantastic and unexpected surprise to hear them break out this old fan favorite written by Dickey Betts. A look around the venue found smiling faces, eyes closed, people letting go and giving into the music. With a two-song, 20-minute set, the Allmans took the evening up a few notches.
Susan Tedeschi :: 03.28.07
The Derek Trucks Band with Susan Tedeschi was up next. For the first tune, Trucks stood offstage as Soulive guitarist Eric Krasno stepped up on "Evidence." Tedeschi, wearing a gorgeous purple dress, was beyond soulful. If this preview was any indication, the upcoming summer tour with Trucks and Tedeschi is going to be special. "I Wish I Knew" was nice as Mike Mattison and Susan Tedeschi traded verses.
When asked to comment on Trucks's guitar playing, Haynes said, "Derek has been one of the best guitar players on the scene for a long time. When I first heard him play he was 11 years old and a great guitar player then. He gets better and better and better constantly." The band ripped into the Dave Mason classic "Only You Know And I Know," where Kofi Burbridge shined on keys and Trucks took a monster mid-song lead. Krasno came back out for one more, with Trucks this time, and they broke into Aretha Franklin's funky version of "The Weight," which featured Duane Allman on the studio original. This 12-minute take was one of the best I've ever heard. The band was in the pocket, Trucks and Krasno dueling, Tedeschi singing her heart out. I turned around to see Oteil Burbridge standing next to me, smiling, eyes closed and dancing to what may have been the best performance of the evening.
Trucks & Krasno :: 03.28.07
Stef Scamardo [Haynes's wife and manager] came out to thank the crowd. She commented that this kind of music could not be performed without this great fan base. With that, it was Gov't Mule time. Haynes announced that keyboardist Danny Louis was on vacation in Mexico and Kofi Burbridge would fill in for him. The Mule opened with "Hammer And Nails," with Haynes belting out, "It takes more than a hammer and nails to make a house a home!" Audley Freed, formerly of the Black Crowes and current tour guitarist with the Dixie Chicks, was next to join the fun for a rockin' "32/20 Blues." Haynes brought the tempo way down for the slowest version of "The Same Thing" I've ever heard. It was sung soulfully, with drummer Charlie Drayton (Ivan Neville, The Cult) sitting in.
Freed & Col. Bruce :: 03.28.07
Kevn Kinney, Edwin McCain, and Lenny Kaye (Patti Smith) came up for a good old honky tonk time on Kinney's southern anthem, "Straight to Hell," which transformed into "Turn On Your Lovelight," where Col. Bruce Hampton fronted the band and jazz saxophonist Jay Collins helped take them off to the races. The encore was the beloved Little Milton (by way of Jerry Garcia) classic, "That's What Love Will Make you Do."
Warren's Friends :: 03.28.07
Krasno, Oteil, McCain, Trucks, Tedeschi, Smallie
"Music, speaking for myself, is so much more fun when you don't know what to expect," comments Haynes. "When you are lucky enough to be surrounded with great musicians, like all of us are, it would be imposing limitations on yourself to expect things to work out a certain way. You have to open yourself up to the unexpected and just not have any preconceptions about where the music's gonna go, let it steer itself to the extent that it will and help steer it to the extent that you can. There is so much great music that can be made in an unrehearsed fashion. If you're with the right people it's just incredible."
Continue reading for the rest of our exclusive conversation with Warren Haynes...