2019 was some year for the Allman Betts Band. In March, the band performed its inaugural show 50 years after the first time the Allman Brothers ever played together. June saw their debut album, Down to the River, hit #1 on the iTunes Rock charts the week it was released. The summer brought the band to a host of festivals and sold out headlining shows as well as a European tour. Throw in a medical emergency and a wedding too, and it was some year.
So what do you do in 2020? You go on a worldwide tour, of course. With a second album in the works (recorded at Muscle Shoals) and having taken some down time to recharge, the band (Devon Allman– guitar, vocals; Duane Betts– guitar, vocals; Berry Duane Oakley– bass, vocals; Johnny Stachela– guitar, vocals; John Ginty– keyboards; R Scott Bryan– percussion, vocals; John Lum– drums) is going global. We caught ABB at the Tarrytown Music Hall stop of their global odyssey. It was coincidental that this weekend we happened to be celebrating two of our founding fathers while listening to the sons of two men who may not have started the blues, but certainly influenced many a contemporary blues or rock musician.
Opening the night was a St. Louis, MO guitarist and singer/songwriter named Jackson Stokes. Stokes is the first person signed to Devon Allman’s new label Create Records. Supported by a solid three-piece band, Jackson offered an unfiltered, raw performance, worthy of his signing to Allman’s new label. Stokes and his band have been playing multiple dates with ABB on this tour.
In the middle slot was JD Simo, a Nashvillian by way of Chicago. JD’s blistering guitar work most certainly pulls from those influences . This night he took the audience with him on his therapeutic musical journey as he performed, maneuvering seamlessly through the styles with no questions asked. A regular on last year’s ABB tour, JD and his band prove to be more than a warm up act, but one that stokes the fire in preparation for a big night.
After two kickin’ acts, the house was set. The sold-out show (which is becoming the norm) had a mix of old and young in attendance. People were sharing stories of seeing Devon or Duane separately and looking forward to experiencing the coalescing of their talents. The band opened up with “Airboats & Cocaine” from the yet to be named upcoming 2nd album. “Shinin’” from their debut Down to the River followed and the groove for the night was in full swing. With almost a year together, the band has jelled into a musical monster to which you are willing to sacrifice yourself. The set list this tour has been in flux, so no one is sure exactly what each night will bring. Sprinkled through the night, a few covers found themselves being pulled out. Berry Oakley took lead vocals on The Dead’s “Shakedown Street” which had everyone up and dancing, while Devon had the crowd waving their cell phone flashlights, a la lighters in the air, to “Purple Rain” adding a special glow to the house. The encore had the band sharing another new tune, “Magnolia Road,” and took it home in reverent fashion with The Allman Brothers’ “Blue Sky.”
So what is 2020 to the Allman Betts Band? A new album, lots of travel stickers on their guitar cases and a band to see if their trek takes them to your town.
Allman Betts Band set list: Airboats and Cocaine, Shinin’, Left My Heart in Memphis, Autumn Breeze, Ain’t Wastin’ Time, All Night, Good Ol’ Days, Jessica, Shakedown Street, Taking Time, Mahalo, Purple Rain, Long Gone
Encore: Magnolia Road, Blue Sky.