The Allman Betts Band – King Crawler American Tour Scottish Rite Auditorium, Collingwood, NJ May 23, 2024

The Allman Betts Band – King Crawler American Tour
Scottish Rite Auditorium, Collingwood, NJ – May 23, 2024

Review & Photos – Rebecca Wolf

The Allman Betts Band arrived quietly on the music scene in early 2019 but were already causing a sensation by the release of their debut album, Down to the River, that March. Fans may have originally been attracted to the names Allman and Betts but they stayed for the incredible songwriting, instrumental skills and overall sound of Allman, Betts and their band of musicians. Their fanbase only grew with the release of their second album, Bless Your Heart, in 2020. However, as 2021 came to a close The band put on the brakes and came to a screeching halt, unexpectedly taking a hiatus and throwing their avid fans into a tizzy. Online comments fluctuated between the belief that this was a tragic end to the incredible collaboration between Devon Allman and Duane Betts and others who remained certain they’d return.

During the hiatus, Allman toured with his band the Devon Allman Project, as well as completed a record breaking tour with singer-songwriter and musician, Donavon Frankenreiter, performing 50 shows, in 50 states, in 49 days. Duane Betts did not remain idle, as he recorded his first full-length album as a solo artist, Wild & Precious Life, and toured the country performing with his band Palmetto Motel. Several musicians from The Allman Betts Band joined both Allman and Betts on their tours, including drummer John Lum with Allman, guitarist Johnny Stachela with Betts, and keyboardist John Ginty doing double duty with both Allman and Betts. Tragically, The Allman Betts Band’s percussionist (also a singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist and Emmy Award winning composer/producer) R Scott Bryan, passed away in December 2023.

Fans of both Allman and Betts continued to frequent their individual shows, as well as the now annual Allman Betts Family Revival performances (previously Allman Family Revival) in honor of Gregg Allman’s December birthday. However, fans were beyond thrilled when the announcement was made that The Allman Betts Band would be back on the road beginning in May 2024 for their King Crawler American Tour. Joining the band as it’s new member is Alex Orbison, son of the legendary Roy Orbison, taking over the second drum kit for the late R Scott Bryan. Additional bandmates remain John Lum on drums, John Ginty on keyboards, Johnny Stachela on guitar and currently Justin Corgan on bass (bassist from The Devon Allman Project.)

The Allman Betts Band hit the road running in Charleston, SC on May 16th and have been performing to packed houses at venues in GA, NY, NJ, VA, FL, KY, IL and MI, and will finish their tour back in NJ on June 9th. On May 23rd, the band performed in Collingswood, NJ at the Scottish Rite Auditorium, a unique venue, with a semi-circle of stadium seating rising above the stage below. There was a high level of anticipatory energy running through the crowd of close to 1000 fans, many of whom appeared to be original fans of the Allman Brothers Band. As Collingswood is on the NJ side of Philadelphia, the audience was a mix of South Jersey and Philly residents. Not surprisingly, the fans greeting each other, casually hanging around and enthusiastically chatting before the show, gave off the vibe of a laidback group of friends awaiting a personal concert. While many of these fans may have found their way to this next generation of musicians via their lineage, it was obvious they were now present due to what this current generation has to offer.

Opening up for The Allman Betts Band was songwriter, blues rock guitarist and producer JD Simo, performing with drummer Adam Abrashoff. Simo has remarkable guitar skills that have been recognized throughout the music industry. He’s spent many years as a session musician and solo artist, has worked with an impressive array of musicians, and was the mastermind behind the guitar work for the 2022 Elvis film. Recently, Simo joined forces with Abrashoff and guitarist/vocalist Luther Dickinson, and the trio will be releasing an album this fall.

It’s often challenging for an opening act to garner the attention of those awaiting the evening’s main event. However, from the moment Simo arrived onstage to the hoots and applause of the crowd, it was clear this wouldn’t be one of those evenings. Greeting the crowd, Simo acknowledged familiar audience members, possibly those who attended the Scottish Rite Auditorium in March, when Simo opened for Samantha Fish. Having previously experienced Simo and his musical expertise, their excitement was not surprising. However, for those seeing Simo for the first time it took mere moments to grab their attention, as he showcased his powerful electricity on the guitar, as Abrashoff displayed his spirited, rhythmic beats on his two drum kit.

While the instrumentation was minimal, the dynamic sound and energy filled the auditorium and “wowed” the crowd, with opening numbers “Mortgage on My Soul” and “Missy’s Strut” from 2023’s Songs from the House of Grease. “I’m gonna do an old song for you now,” Simo shared with the audience. “I like songs that are old. It’s a John Lee Hooker song,” he said to applause, as he passionately performed “Never Get Out of these Blues Alive.” The additional songs in the 35-minute set included “That’s When You Know You Are Down” and “Go Away Satan from 2021’s Mind Control. Throughout the entire set Simo exuded passion as he jammed on his guitar, whether standing or sitting, across the stage from Abrashoff or beside him on the drums. It was the perfect energizer for the musical evening yet to come.

While some seats remained empty during the opening act, with patrons lingering in the lobby and purchasing beverages, there was a sudden scramble as the lights dimmed for the arrival of The Allman Betts Band. With the stage still darkened, “Up in Smoke” began to play over the sound system, silencing the crowd and providing an intro for the band to arrive onstage. While the stage remained in darkness and musicians played the first bars of “Wash in G,” the music increased in volume and tempo. A light shined down on Duane Betts, jamming on his guitar, as Devon Allman commanded “A 1-2-3-4,” and the band joined in at full-force, as the stage became engulfed in light. The electricity on stage was instantly reflected back by the energy of the audience, as excitement wafted through the auditorium. The opening number seamlessly flowed into the upbeat, keep-on-rolling-feeling of “Magnolia Road,” from 2020’s Bless Your Heart. The set continued with additional songs from the album, including the tour’s namesake “King Crawler,” “Airboats and Cocaine,” and Betts’ phenomenal “Savannah’s Dream,” an extended instrumental jam reminiscent of Dickey Betts’ legendary jams.

Having opened the evening showcasing their own music, The Allman Betts Band turned the performance towards honoring their roots and performing classics from The Allman Brothers Band. With Dickey Betts’ recent passing it was fitting to open this portion of the performance with “Blue Sky, composed and sung by Dickey Betts, his vocal debut, now sung by son Duane. While the crowd was enthusiastic from the onset, hearing a beloved Allman Brothers’ song raised the excitement in the audience to the next level. This excitement was further heightened as the band performed the Gregg Allman penned and soulfully sung “Midnight Rider,” now sung with the rich, soulful vocals of son Devon.

The performance turned the clock forward again to Allman Betts, performing, “Shinin’” and “Southern Rain,” before leaving the audience with Allman’s vocally powerful “Long Gone.” Of course this departure was only temporary, as the band returned to the stage for their requisite encore. For a band who rightfully prides themselves on being their own band but also honors the legacy from where they came, It’s fitting that the two encore numbers included an Allman Brothers’ dramatic classic, “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” followed by Allman Betts’ beautifully haunting “Pale Horse Rider.”

When The Allman Betts Band unexpectedly took a hiatus in 2022 many fans feared it was the end of the incredible collaboration between Devon Allman and Duane Betts. What a thrill for audiences to see and hear the band back together and out on the road. Now that we have you here, is too soon to ask about a album number 3?