Allman Bros/WSP | 09.01 & 02 | Chicago

Words & Videos by: Herschel Concepcion | Images by: Norman Sands

Allman Brothers Band/Widespread Panic :: 09.01.09 & 09.02.09 :: Charter One Pavilion :: Chicago, IL

Widespread Panic :: 09.02 :: Chicago, IL
I remember the rush of excitement I felt when the Allman Brothers/Widespread Panic co-bill tour was first announced. It was last spring, and I was giddy like a schoolgirl with the latest gossip, calling all of my friends and sharing the news with anyone who would listen, and why not? Here were two of my favorite bands that between them boast three of the top five guitarists out there today, and they would be playing right here in Chicago – two nights – and I would be damned if anything could stop me from witnessing this historic tour.

Needless to say, it would be a long summer for me as I counted down the days until what I believed would be the best shows the city would see all year. Of course, there was plenty of good music to tide me over in the meantime – String Cheese at Rothbury was one of the most intense musical experiences I've ever had, and Phish at Alpine wasn't too shabby either – but when it comes down to it, it's true blue rock & roll that really stirs my blood. And when it comes to that, the Allmans and Panic are two of the best.

Tuesday, 09.01

Charter One Pavilion is my favorite venue in the city. It's a temporary structure, taken down every fall and reassembled in the spring. One of the few outdoor venues in the city, it sits on a little peninsula, bordered to the west by Burnham Harbor and beyond that by Soldier Field. The Field Museum sits to the northwest, the Shedd Aquarium to the north, and to the east, the great stretch of water that is Lake Michigan, a vast expanse of rippling waves that glittered under the evening sun that day.

Haynes & Trucks - Allman Brothers :: 09.01 :: Chicago, IL
Chicago would be the final stop of the first leg of the tour, with Panic set to close the first night and the Allman Brothers the second. Each act was scheduled to play a full two-hour set with no set breaks (except for between bands), for a total of eight straight hours of music over the two-day period.

The Allmans hit the ground running, blasting out "Done Somebody Wrong" and "Don't Keep Me Wonderin'" before getting real bluesy with a "Woman Across the River" that saw lead guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks playing off each other tastefully. After a deep solo by Gregg Allman on the keys, Trucks launched into one of his trademark screaming slide runs. Never one to sit back long, Haynes got mean and heavy with his response, and by the end of the song he and Trucks were firing off licks back and forth. It was downright filthy, real dirty, gritty stuff – and exactly what we'd come here for.

The Brothers were hot now, and it would only get better from there. After the pounding instrumental "Hot'Lanta," featuring the percussive talents of Marc Quinones, and some more of Trucks' aching slide on "Stand Back," the band turned out a great rendition of the always uplifting "Revival" to lighten the mood a bit, and there were more than a few smiles in the crowd as the song took effect.

Ortiz & Schools :: 09.01 :: Chicago, IL
Traffic's Dave Mason then took the stage, adding guitar and vocals to "Only You Know and I Know" and an extra funky "Feelin' Alright." After a jazzy, extended "Dreams" it was time for the second surprise guest of the night as Chicago's very own Buddy Guy joined the Allmans for "The Sky Is Crying" and "You Don't Love Me." It was a bit surreal to watch this combination of jam and blues legends all on one stage, like witnessing a piece of history that one might've seen 40 years ago. And these guys clearly still have it, rocking out harder than most men half their age. This was definitely no nostalgia act.

After fan favorite "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," the Allmans closed out their set with a double encore featuring "Melissa" and "Trouble No More." The "Melissa" was particularly sweet, and began with some poignant soloing by Haynes as the band filtered back onstage with Gregg on rhythm guitar, his gentle but rough, blues-hardened voice as soulful and true as ever.

Not to be outdone, Widespread Panic took full advantage of their first closing spot of the tour, taking the stage 15 minutes earlier than their scheduled set time and jumping right into "Disco" and "Henry Parsons Died." After a heavy "Bears Gone Fishin'," the band brought up Derek Trucks for a 15-plus minute, jammed out "Ride Me High." "Angels On High" was followed by the band's first-ever rendition of Bob Dylan's "Just Like A Woman" that found Gregg Allman on his Hammond B3, trading lyrics with Panic's John Bell.

Allman stayed onstage as Haynes came on to add some six-string work to a highly charged version of the Grateful Dead's "Turn On Your Lovelight," a great and welcome surprise to the lucky audience who had already been enjoying a night of great music and guest appearances. But the sit-ins were far from over as Trucks came back out to the stage, where he would remain for the rest of the set.

Widespread Panic :: 09.01 :: Chicago, IL
One of the highlights of the night was a "Papa's Home" sandwich that featured some terrific interplay between Trucks and Panic's very own guitar wizard Jimmy Herring. After a nice drums session by skins man Todd Nance and percussionist "Sunny" Ortiz came an extra elevated "Climb to Safety," followed by a "North" that brought out Haynes, who stayed for the encore – a down home and dirty "Bowlegged Woman" that saw the band play for 15 minutes past their allotted set time. Combined with their early start, that's a total of 30 minutes of extra music.

With the first night officially a success, there was actually some apprehension expressed by a few fans. "How can you top that?" they asked. "That shit was incredible." Silly hippies, I thought. This ain't their first rodeo and these super-pros always know how to up the ante.

The Allman Brothers Band:
Jam > Done Somebody Wrong, Don't Keep Me Wonderin', Woman Across The River, Hot 'Lanta, Stand Back, Revival, Only You Know and I Know*, Feelin' Alright**, Dreams, The Sky Is Crying***, You Don't Love Me***, In Memory of Elizabeth Reed
E: Melissa, Trouble No More

* w/ Dave Mason
** w/ Dave Mason & JoJo Herman
*** w/ Buddy Guy

Widespread Panic:
Disco > Henry Parsons Died, Bear's Gone Fishin' > Ride Me High* > Diner > Angels on High, Just Like A Woman** > Turn On Your Love Light***, Papa's Home* > Drums > Climb To Safety* > Papa's Home* > North****
E: Bowlegged Woman****

* w/ Derek Trucks on guitar
** w/ Gregg Allman on organ
*** w/ Gregg Allman on organ, Warren Haynes on guitar
**** w/ Derek Trucks on guitar, Warren Haynes on guitar
[Only "Just Like A Woman." Last "Turn On Your Love Light" - 09/24/97, 971 shows]

Continue reading for Wednesday's coverage of The Allman Brothers Band and Widespread Panic...

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