The Allman Betts Band – World Tour 2020
Scottish Rite Auditorium – Collingswood, NJ – 2/15/2020
Count Basie Theater – Red Bank, NJ – 2/18/2020
Watching an Allman Betts Band show you are keenly aware throughout the performance that this band is about a lot more than their music. This band is about a legacy, a shared history. This band is about brotherhood and family. Devon Allman, Duane Betts, and Berry Duane Oakley are the sons of the founding members of The Allman Brothers Band, considered one of the greatest rock bands of all time. It’s heartwarming to watch this next generation of Allman, Betts, and Oakley on stage and to know they occupy a space their fathers once stood. This is a unique, and in many ways deeper connection than most other bands.
Of course there are other children of renowned musicians who follow in the footsteps of their parents and have made names for themselves in the music industry. Julian Lennon, son of the legendary Beatle, John Lennon, had a No. 5 song on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in 1985. In 1990, the band Wilson Phillips, consisting of Carnie and Wendy Wilson, daughters of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, and Chynna Phillips, daughter of John and Michele Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas, was nominated for five Grammy Awards. Jakob Dylan followed his iconic father, Bob Dylan, into the industry with his band, The Wallflowers, and scored a hit in 1996 with his second album. Dhani Harrison, son of the late Beatle, George Harrison, has scored movies and television shows and released a solo album in 2017. And, Lukas Nelson, son of country superstar Willie Nelson, and his band Promise of the Real, have released 5 albums since 2010. There have been and will continue to be many other second generation musicians creating great music, born out of the talent, drive and love of music passed down from their gifted parents.
However, while there are many individual artists following in their parents’ footsteps, the fact that these three gentlemen have together formed a next generation band together is something grander in scale….something even more special and unique. As Devon Allman has previously noted….these offspring could have formed a band together years earlier. While they did not grow up together they’ve know each other for a good portion of their lives. However, neither Allman nor Betts wanted to come together solely to pay tribute to the music of their famous fathers. It was only recently, that the time and circumstances were right for these musicians to join forces, to form a band that could pay homage to the Allman Brother legacy, while at the same time creating music and making names for themselves.
The names “Allman” and “Betts” are likely to draw many fans into an arena, many who miss their beloved Allman Brothers Band. However, to keep them coming back there needs to be more than the allure of seeing the legendary sons….there needs to be great music. With their debut album, released in June 2019, Down to the River, the Allman Betts Band meets all expectations for delivering great music. The band began their first tour almost a year ago, in March 2019, prior to the release of Down to the River. Since that time I’ve had the privilege of seeing the band several times, and watching their evolution. While the band members appeared relaxed, comfortable and in sync on stage from the onset, this vibe has now become magnified. From the moment they entered the stage at both the Scottish Rite Auditorium and the Count Basie Theater, the Allman Betts Band members brought with them a spirited but also laid back feel, in their demeanors as well as in their music.
Whether the songs were high energy, like original numbers, “Airboats & Cocaine,” and “Shinin’”, opening the night, or more melodic and intense, like, “Down to the River,” and “Autumn Breeze,” you were apt to find found yourself lost in the music, the moment, and the feeling. Allman and Betts traded lead vocals, showcasing their strong but distinctly different voices, the contrast of which was a perfect fit. Allman’s deep, gritty voice caught your attention and drew you in with its power and soul. Betts’ voice, airy, melodic and with a Southern drawl, felt sweet and engaging, particularly during “Autumn Breeze”, which also showcased his incredible guitar skills. During the extended guitar solo, Betts played
alongside master slide guitarist Johnny Stachela, with his fast picking, lightning quick chord changes, and slide guitar moves. These gentlemen are phenomenal guitar players and their emotions emanated through the vibrating strings of their instruments. Their love for playing was exceedingly apparent, as throughout the evening extended solos and improvisational jams were expertly performed.
Although often not front and center, Oakley demonstrated passion and skill on the bass and obvious pleasure at being part of this musical brotherhood. Singing lead vocal on the Grateful Dead cover, “Shakedown Street”, one of the longest songs of the evening, and surely a crowd favorite, Oakley’s voice was upbeat, smooth and warm. Completing the band were percussionists R. Scott Bryan and John Lum, and keyboardist, John Ginty, all phenomenal musicians, whose skills added rhythm and soul to the music.
The songs easily flowed from one to the next, with never a drop in energy, emotion or musical skill. The14-number set at Collingswood and the 16-number set in Red Bank included mostly original material, along with several Allman Brothers songs, the Tom Petty hit, “You’ve Got Lucky” and the aforementioned Grateful Dead classic. The backdrop of colorful lights and images throughout the performance added a visual experience to match each musical piece, creating a full spectrum of sights and sounds. The audience at each venue was engaged and enthralled from the opening number until the final note of “Long Gone”, the last song at each venue. At the Count Basie Theater, this was not until 12:15am. I have been to many shows were the crowd begins to thin as the night gets later. With many members of the audience being original Allman Brothers fans, this could easily have been the case….after midnight, mid-week, is late for almost anyone. However, the majority of the audience was so enthused they remained until the last band member walked off the stage.
It’s been several days since I’ve exited the doors of the Count Basie Theater and I still find myself singing Allman Betts songs in my head…and I’m still speaking to others with great enthusiasm about the shows and the band. While I’m obviously a fan of the music of the Allman Betts Band., I’m also a fan of “them”, themselves, and the unique connection they share…the bond of legacy and family, shared by no other. At the Count Basie Theater, Allman, introduced Oakley as, “my brother from another mother” and Betts as, “my partner in crime”. Now how cool is that!
Photos and Review by Rebecca Wolf