As teams of searchers scoured the ocean for clues in the July 17th downing of TWA Flight 800, 70 miles to the west the Allman Brothers Band was cleansing the spirit of Long Island, recapturing the vibes first cooked up a generation ago and venturing out into uncharted territory. Unlike so many other bands first active in the late '60's and early 70's who are on the road this summer, the Allmans are not content to rehash old glories, but are exploring new musical ideas and taking their fans along for the ride.
It would be hard to imagine a more perfect day for a concert; warm and dry, bright sunny skies, everyone enjoying their Sunday at the beach. The Jones Beach Amphitheater is entirely open-air and provides convenient amenities for concertgoers - ample parking and restrooms and above-average refreshments (but no alcoholic beverages). After a good set by opener God Street Wine, a good NYC jammin' favorite, the crowd was comfortable and ready.
For those who had been attending the Furthur Festival, the exuberant crowd reaction to the Allmans stood in contrast to the spotty and often-restrained response to the bands at the Furthur shows. After bringing the crowd into the music with Statesboro Blues and Midnight Rider, the jamming began with a nice Blue Sky and just kept going.
About 45 minutes into the show, all pretense of conforming to conventional song form was dropped as the band went into In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, moving past the main themes and into searing solos by Dickie Betts and Warren Haynes, each of whom took the jam into improvisational free-flight, beyond the point where the individual playing styles of either musician could be recognized. The jam broke off into a percussion groove, which was followed by an Allen Woody showcase, touching on the Other One and The Eleven themes before settling into Lovelight, at which point the rest of the band reappeared, jammed some more and finished up Elizabeth Reed.
The audience, riveted by the music, barely aware of their surroundings, and expecting to cool down, was lured into a slow groove as Gregg started Dreams. But ten minutes later, the respite was over, as Betts and Haynes, overflowing with new ideas, once again ignited a jam which found a groove somewhere between mathematical precision and emotional release. There were other highlights of the show - Haynes' Worried Down With the Blues and Hootchie Coochie Man, and Betts' Back Where It All Begins, but the Allmans' had proved themselves after Dreams. The amazed and satisfied audience brought the band back for the crowd-pleaser No One to Run With, the visuals for which prominently featured Garcia, and a fine One Way Out.
Yes, the spirit of the Grateful Dead lives, but not where you would first think to look. Through hard work and musical dedication, the Allmans are taking that spirit to the next level - catch them if you can.
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