Allman Betts Family Revival 2023-Beacon Theatre – NYC

Allman Betts Family Revival 2023

Beacon Theatre – NYC – December 2, 2023

Review & Photos – Rebecca Wolf

On December 2nd the marquee at NYC’s Beacon Theatre included two words that excite and thrill every performer. These words are equated with success and loyalty. They speak of the bond between a performer and their fanbase and are often viewed as a sign of a performer’s level of talent and skill. Illuminated in red, beneath the signage for the legendary theatre, and beside the emblem for the Allman Betts Family Revival, were these words laden with such significant meaning….SOLD OUT. Selling out any theater is noteworthy but doing so at the legendary Beacon Theatre holds that much more meaning. It’s especially meaningful for Devon Allman and the Allman Betts Family Revival members who are following in the footsteps of the iconic Allman Brothers Band, who played to sold out Beacon Theatre crowds for years. Since Gregg Allman’s 2017 passing, these revival performances have taken place in the weeks surrounding Allman’s December 8th birthday, creating the perfect opportunity for friends, family and fans to celebrate this trailblazing singer, songwriter and musician and the music created by his storied band.

It was a celebration at the Beacon Theatre for the enthusiastic, ABB-loving fans filling the over 2500 seats, as well as for the twenty passionate musicians coming and going from the expansive stage with the towering video backdrop. Throughout the almost three hour performance it was a dance of musicians, smoothly moving on and off the stage, flowing from one leading vocalist and instrumentalist to the next. Each year Devon Allman amasses an array of extraordinarily talented musicians to join the celebration and share their skills; this year was no exception. With Devon Allman, Duane Betts, guitarist Luther Dickinson, bassist Tal Wilkenfeld, keyboardist John Ginty, drummers John Lum and Alex Orbison and percussionist David Gomez onstage, the  evening opened with “Wash in D,” and transitioned to “Sailin’ Cross the Devil’s Sea” from the Allman Brother’s 1994’s Where It All Began, a perfect beginning for the evening with powerful guitar riffs and Devon Allman’s dynamic, earthy vocals. 

“Statesboro Blues” brought Jimmy Hall to the stage with his phenomenally strong, soulful voice and his incredible harmonica skills. Hall’s energy was so engaging that he had a steadfast hold on everyone’s attention both onstage, as well as in the crowd. With guitar master Greg Koch and Americana-blues singer Mattie Schell joining the crew, Hall continued to display his robust vocal abilities on “No One to Run With,” sharing verses with the equally powerful, full-bodied voices of Allman and Schell. 

This was an evening of compelling performances by attention-grabbing female musical artists. Blues rock guitarist, singer, songwriter Ally Venable was impressive with her deep, rich vocals and fast-moving fingers on “I’m No Angel,” a number from The Gregg Allman Band. Tal Wilkenfeld, a phenom on the bass (and whose birthday it was that evening), played with the energy and passion of a lead guitarist throughout the performance, with her beautiful, sultry voice showcased on the classic Allman Brother’s number “Ain’t Wastin’ No More Time.” Mandolin-playing Mattie Schell performed “Come and Go Blues,” a perfect number to showcase her passionate, soulful, smoky vocals, while keyboardist John Ginty’s phenomenal skills were highlighted as his fingers raced up and down the keys. The fourth female to engage and impress the audience with her exceptional guitar skills and alluring vocals, was Belgian blues rock singer, guitarist, drummer and songwriter Ghalia Volt. Volt brought energetic, bluesy vocals to 1973’s “Pony Boy,” along with the spirited, twangy sound created by her dynamic finger moves on the guitar. This was a musical extravaganza with Hall playing his signature, squealing harmonica, the trio of percussionists, Cody Dickinson, John Lum and David Gomez, creating a fast, foot-tapping rhythmic beat, Wilkenfeld adding rhythmic depth on the bass, Johnny Stachela and his slide guitar injecting an additional layer of energetic blues, and keyboardists Ginty and Jackie Greene pounding the keys to complete this incredible Delta blues performance.  

Greene, a multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter, shared keyboard duties with Ginty, throughout the majority of the evening. However, Greene wowed the audience with his warm, tender vocals as he played Gregg Allman’s Gibson guitar and sang lead on the iconic “Melissa,” with more than two thousand voices joining in on the beautiful refrain “Sweet Melissa.”  This heartfelt number was in contrast to the powerful energy that wafted through the theater during “Soulshine,” with vocals and lead guitar performed by bluesman Larry McCray and his signature Flying V Guitar. McCray enchanted the crowd with his soulful vocals and his emotive guitar playing, as audience members joined in singing, “Soulshine, It’s better than sunshine, It’s better than moonshine.” 

Audience engagement and participation was at a high throughout the performance.  From the front of the house to the upper tiers of the balcony the crowd was on their feet and singing along from the first song of the night until the band exited the stage. Observing the crowd it was obvious by the expressions on their faces and the passion in their voices that these were not merely concertgoers but fans who feel deeply about Gregg Allman and the Allman Brothers Band. These feelings of endearment have not dissipated with the passage of time nor with the passing of band members. Rather, the feelings have seemingly deepened as the beloved music has continued to bring out cherished memories and feelings in adoring fans, none moreso than “Blue Sky,” written and sung by Dickey Betts and incredibly performed this evening by Duane Betts. 

Betts’ phenomenal skills on guitar, paired with those of Luther Dickinson, were on display during Gregg Allman’s penned “Dreams,” while Dickey Betts’ extraordinarily written instrumental number “Jessica,” was lead by Stachela and guest drummer Jeff Arevalo (from Goose).  While the “family members” entering and exiting the stage appeared endless, it’s not surprising as countless musicians have been inspired by the music of the Allman Brothers.  Anders Osborne, singer, songwriter and guitarist, known for his distinctive melding of rock, soul, blues and R&B performed the iconic “Ramblin’ Man,” while newcomers to the stage, guitarist Jackson Stokes, and blue-grass singer, songwriter and mandolinist, Sierra Hull, performed “One Way Out,” with Allman and Koch. Continuing in the evening’s tradition of females in the spotlight, Hull’s vocals and mandolin performance were spectacular as she joined Allman and Betts on the    powerfully “End of the Line,” the dramatic, illuminated backdrop depicting the trio at dusk, at the end of a deserted city street. Hull continued to shine during Allman Betts’ “Magnolia Road,” her phenomenal skills on mandolin highlighted during this Allman Betts’ favorite, with Justin Corgan joining on bass and backing vocals and Stachela returning on slide guitar. 

Additional songs in the set included “Seven Turns” and “Whipping Post,” the latter with a lay-it-on-the-stage vocal performance by Hall.  It’s no surprise the evening’s final number was the treasured, classic Allman Brothers Band hit “Midnight Rider,” which had all Allman Betts Family Revival musicians returning to the stage. The energy and passion emanating from the musicians onstage was reflected back by the adoring sold out crowd, who were on their feet, singing along at full volume. While there will never be another Gregg Allman or another Allman Brothers Band, a SOLD OUT Allman Betts Family Revival performance at the legendary Beacon Theatre assures that friends and family are continuing to keep the spirit and the music of this legend alive! Happy 76th Birthday Gregg!!