The Allman Betts Band at the Palace

Larson Sutton on March 18, 2020
The Allman Betts Band at the Palace

photo by Steve Rood

Gregg Allman once said that The Allman Brothers Band was not a jamband.  It was a band that jams.  In that same familial spirit, The Allman Betts Band has risen.  And as the two-year-old ensemble has expanded its original repertoire, with a forthcoming album following up its 2019 debut, so too has the septet expanded its taste for improvisation, and its guest list.

The boys got right into the new tracks, lifting the lid on a two-hour headlining set at downtown L.A.’s Palace with a pair of fresh cuts sandwiched around their single from last year’s inaugural LP.  First was the gnarly tale of Southern excess and its Stones-like riff, “Airboats ‘n Cocaine,” rolling into the stomping rock of “Shinin’” from 2019’s Down to the River.  Then, another from the upcoming record- the dusky bio ballad “Magnolia Road”- with group namesakes Devon Allman and Duane Betts sharing guitar lines, lead vocals, and a harmonized chorus leading the way back home.

For the unaware, Devon and Duane, as well as bassist Berry Duane Oakley, are sons of founding Allman Brothers; the late Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, and the late Berry Oakley, respectively.  The progenious trio trace their way back home to a landmark band that revolutionized music with a hybrid of electric blues, jazz, and country laced with psychedelic improvisation.  It’s only fitting, then, that among their nods to their musical, and literal, ancestry were two gems from their fathers’ Eat A Peach: Devon tipping the hat to Gregg’s soaring, mid-tempo blues, “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More”; Duane honoring Dickey’s countrified classic, ”Blue Sky.”

It was on another Brothers nugget- the imperial instrumental “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”- that The Allman Betts Band welcomed the first of several guests for the evening.  Gov’t Mule drummer Matt Abts temporarily took over John Lum’s chair, opposite percussionist R. Scott Bryan, formidably buttressing the launch pad as Duane, guitarist Johnny Stachela, and keyboardist John Ginty blasted off for a 17-minute trip to the cosmos.  Devon, too, would seize his own means of six-string expression, stretching out with Stachela (and his quotes of Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice”), on “Mahalo,” a burner from Devon’s days with Honeytribe.

Even with all of the fretboard fireworks, the songs remained the focus; whether on a patient and tasteful “Left My Heart in Memphis,” a greasy “All Night,” or a wink to Tom Petty on “You Got Lucky.”  On a late-set “Down to the River,” they spotlighted the blues-soaked guitar of one of the show’s two openers, Jackson Stokes, and engaged the near-capacity theatre crowd to sing along on the delicate outro.  Stokes departed, tagging in another of the bill’s supporting artists, guitarist Marc Ford, as well as a special guest, The Doors’ guitarist Robby Krieger, to assemble an armed forces of stringed instruments. As Oakley belted out the Brothers’ “Trouble No More,” down the line the five guitarists traded lines and smiles, with Krieger and Stachela both wielding whining and grinding bottleneck slides.

For The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues,” Krieger kicked off the familiar shuffle, as Devon and Oakley teamed up for the vocal.  Again each of the five axmen took their solo turns, but it was best when things got quiet; all five weaving patterns of notes around and through each other at once.  Oakley returned to begin the ascent to the song’s climax, peaking when Devon countered the bassist’s cries to “Save our city!” with a shearing “Right now!” and imploring their faithful to let it roll, baby, roll all night long.

As an encore, the ABB unleashed The Black Crowes’ “Wiser Time,” and invited Ford back to decorate his former band’s shifting rumbler.  It was a nicely connecting selection bridging the rock-and-roll timeline and their mutual southern affiliations; from the Brothers’ 70s heyday through the Crowes’ 90s stardom to the present bearers of the jams: The Allman Betts Band.