Gregg Allman’s 75th Birthday Celebrated At Beacon Theatre With All-Star ‘The Midnight Rider Jam’

Gavin DeGraw, Old Dominion, Brothers Osborne, NEEDTOBREATHE and Lucie Silvas were among the participants at The Beacon Theatre.

By Chad Berndtson Dec 9, 2022 10:48 am PST

There are some of us – and it’s not a small group – that get Allmans-itchy every time spring comes around in New York City, or every time we set foot in The Beacon Theatre, that gilded palace that played host to so many legendary The Allman Brothers Band performances of yore.

And hey, no, the Allmans aren’t walking through that door, but performances of Allmans’ music — hella good ones too, well beyond the level of “merely” sharp tribute band — are now everywhere, from the annual Allman Family Revival caravan to emerging powerhouse and generation-bridger Trouble No More, to the Friends of The Brothers band, to the band’s own alumni continuing to include Allmans classics in Gov’t Mule shows, Tedeschi Trucks Band shows, and numerous other contexts.

Putting aside the good, but distracting question of “authorized tribute” and where that line really is — maybe we don’t need to overanalyze why people love this music so much, just that there’s a market for it? — the vast, but manageable Allmans’ catalog, Gregg Allman’s own oeuvre, and the combined rich legacy of those are something people want to keep returning to. Who’s to stop exceptional musicians from making that happen, and being completely, totally, in the zone with it?

That warm, relaxed, “in the zone” feeling was sustained throughout “The Midnight Rider: Gregg Allman’s 75th Birthday Jam,” which sprawled out over two and a half lip-smacking hours at the Beacon Thursday night. This was what might be called an Allmans-adjacent lineup: only the esteemed Peter Levin, part of Trouble No More and the Gregg Allman Band’s longtime keyboardist, and here a part of the house band for most of the night, could be accurately considered part of the extended Allmans family. Accompanying Levin in the house band for the evening was Kenny Greenberg on lead guitar, Justin Schipper on steel guitar, Alison Prestwood on bass, Mike Rojas on keyboards and Nick Buda on drums.

But everyone that took the stage was a student of the music, an interpreter of the music, a celebrator of the music, and most often, all of those things — they clearly understood the assignment, which was to fete ol’ Gregg on what would have been the legend’s 75th birthday. And almost everyone that took the stage had a story or two about growing up with the music of the Allmans and, in some cases, seeing the later-era versions of the band on the very same stage.

As a crackling backup band filled in and started to get loose, Lady A’s Charles Kelley was first up, tearing through “Statesboro Blues,” “I’m No Angel,” and the Grateful Dead’s “Black Muddy River” (memorably sung by Allman on his covers-heavy final studio album, Southern Blood). From there came the exuberant South Carolina rockers NEEDTOBREATHE, getting groovy with the band on “Stand Back” and “Wasted Words.”

Up until that point, things had been steady and somewhat easing in. U.K.-bred singer Lucie Silvas kicked the energy level up a notch with “Trouble No More” and then played piano for a heartfelt “These Days,” accompanied by her husband, and Brothers Osborne co-leader, John Osborne, who’d spend a lot of time on stage throughout the night.

Rising country star Jackson Dean slid on next to pay faithful tribute, singing a tender “Multi-Colored Lady” and an even tenderer “Please Call Home.” The show wasn’t all country. Bass innovator and musical nonpareil Shaun Munday played solo, sans any backing except his own bass and mojo, to reinvent “Leave My Blues at Home” as a carnal, thudding workout.

From there came the night’s first unannounced guest, affable singer Gavin DeGraw, who – with John Osborne again added to the ensemble – got good ‘n’ dirty with the classic “Don’t Want You No More” into “It’s Not My Cross to Bear” pairing before getting the crowd on its feet with “Soulshine.”

Upstart country singer and former The Voice contestant Kameron Marlowe then came aboard for a soaring “Win Lose or Draw,” before leading the band through a swerving version of “Whipping Post” that started solo acoustic and built to the song’s more familiar shattering guitar climaxes.

The final run of songs brought choice pile-ons among the guests. Brothers Osborne welcomed back Silvas for “Revival” before leaning into “Melissa.” And then came Nashville pop-country force Old Dominion, who served beautiful renditions of “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” and “Just Ain’t Easy” before a rollicking “One Way Out” brought the main set to a close.

With everyone back on stage and handed a microphone, a guitar, or something to shake or hit, the whole group then served up an inevitable “Midnight Rider” — lovingly scruffy, almost a hootenanny-style version well in service of the night’s vibe. It was all exactly as advertised; a loose and un-overthought jam in honor of a lost and beloved legend, cresting on timeless and unimpeachable music. The road goes on for … well, you know.

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