Allman Brothers & RatDog | 08.23 | NJ

Words by: Bobby Coleman | Images by: Rod Snyder

The Allman Brothers Band and Bob Weir & RatDog
08.23.08 :: Susquehanna Bank Center :: Camden, NJ

Gregg Allman :: 08.23 :: New Jersey
There were about 11,000 fans out on a hot summer night in a sea of tie-dye shirts blending in with the evening light on the open field next to the Delaware River. Bob Weir & RatDog was the opening act for the Allman Brothers Band and fans of all ages had funneled into the grounds.

Weir, looking like a jolly rock & roll Santa Claus, and RatDog started the show slowly with a nice jam. As the reefer smoke ascended to the ceiling along with the balloons that fans were batting around, everyone around me began dancing and cheering as they went into "Shakedown Street." Abandoning the structures of conventional music, the band – Weir (vocals, guitar), Mark Karan (guitar), Kenny Brooks (sax), Jeff Chimenti (keys), Jay Lane (drums) and Robin Sylvester (bass) improvised the jams by rearranging pitches, harmonies, frequencies, resonance and duration in a creative chaos. As these guys "noodled" with their instruments, easing into a wandering cosmic exploration, it was somewhat like being dropped into the middle of a new galaxy where things look familiar but nothing is in the same place and we are left to ponder the relationship of their meaning. In short, music for music's sake.

Dylan's "Queen Jane Approximately" was performed very peacefully and melodically with a pleasant keyboard and sax interlude. Chimenti played the grand piano becoming more apparent during "Money For Gasoline," where he soloed, banging away accompanied by sax flourishes and slapping cymbals. Tempos would race before being calmed by rhythm guitar set amongst rising bright, blue notes. "Eyes of the World" was full of great solo instrumental runs, the kind that no doubt have inspired many bands to improvise and jam in hopeful imitation

Bob Weir :: 08.23 :: New Jersey
Then, another Dylan song, "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall." Everyone stood and sang for the three-guitar lineup. Bobby Weir is exceptionally good at interpreting Dylan's music and everyone seemed greatly pleased at this timeless standard done RatDog style. Having given ourselves to the music, fans were now ready for "Bird Song," "The Other One" and "Morning Dew," with the music creating a kaleidoscope of sounds and harmony. To close their set, Warren Haynes joined RatDog to perform a "Bird Song" reprise and the traditional Saturday night staple, "One More Saturday Night." Holding the crowd spellbound, these wizards invited fans to join in on the chorus by pausing and slowing down the tempo as the set concluded.

It was good to see Gregg Allman at the keyboard ready to perform after a very serious illness scare which had kept him away for too long. He was smiling and happy. Digging right into "Hot Lanta," the heat started to rise as the unmistakable Hammond organ and Allman's distinctly Southern voice blended with the guitars of Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks. Haynes and Trucks are two of the all time greats, and both are mean with a slide, and it is a great privilege to see and hear them play side by side in this archetypical band. Pushing the energy level way up, "Done Somebody Wrong" featured a little boogie woogie blues accent that wowed the crowd. These guys - Jamie Johanson (percussion), Marc Quinones (percussion), Butch Trucks (drums), Gregg Allman (vocals, keys), Derek Trucks, Oteil Burbridge (bass) and Warren Haynes (guitar, vocals) - are obviously remarkably talented, but it's their history, having helped define the Southern Rock genre, that makes them so truly special.

Derek Trucks :: 08.23 :: New Jersey
The perennial classic "Midnight Rider" contained a phantom rebel spirit, a shadowy figure that lingers in all of us, an aimless and displaced figure who owns nothing except one more silver dollar and keeps on searching for freedom. The music on "Rider" was reminiscent of a train - the clanging bell, the hissing steam, the squealing rails and the squeaks of the timber on the stone bed all contained in the introduction. Overlaid with vocal harmonies, blue tones, driving repeated rhythms and incredible bottleneck slide that never stopped, this was the highlight of the evening.

They also covered Van Morrison's "And It Stoned Me" and Dr. John's "I Walk On Guilded Splinters." Both were remarkable feasts of guitar and drums. "Dreams" featured Kenny Brooks on sax, who blew a little of Rogers and Hammerstein's "My Favorite Things" in the intro. This was truly an amazing show! To explain it is next to impossible - the long solo runs, the triple drummers, kettle drums - since there was so much happening. If all of that wasn't enough, Haynes, Weir and Trucks performed Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" on acoustic guitars.

"Mountain Jam" > "Dazed and Confused" > "Mountain Jam" was a delicious sandwich and proved that the masterful musicians of this band will carry this music well into the future. The Allman Brothers Band exemplifies and embodies the spirit of Southern rock and it's good to know one of America's great musical traditions is in safe hands.

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