The Allman Brothers Band: Play All Night, Live at the Beacon Theatre 1992
When Gregg Allman declared to Relix that this, the 45th year of The Allman Brothers Band, will be the last for the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame group, he and the current ensemble have partially to thank the incarnation that is featured on Play All Night, Live at the Beacon Theatre 1992 in helping to reach such a milestone. Recorded during what would become an annual tradition, an extended Spring residency at the historic New York City venue, Play All Night also saw the return of the late Tom Dowd to the production board, echoing his role in the classic At Fillmore East. Drawing on the best of two nights from the 10-show run, this double-disc album is representative of the septet firing on all cylinders, and a lineup that to date was most reminiscent of the glorious era of its deceased founder Duane Allman.
Three years after reuniting for what was to be a one-time, 20th anniversary tour, The Allman Brothers Band in 1992 had settled in to a unit that would cut a pair of studio records, release two official live albums, a concert DVD, and play nationally the amphitheater circuit to sell-out audiences each and every summer. From the reunion had come a strong entry, Seven Turns, and the debuts of guitarist Warren Haynes, bassist Allen Woody, and keyboardist Johnny Neel. By 1991, Neel had been jettisoned and percussionist Marc Quinones had signed on full-time after guesting on that year’s Shades of Two Worlds, a fitting title for a group that was basically half original members and half new recruits.Still fresh and still out to prove something, it’s the influence of Haynes, Woody, and Quinones that spurs the veterans to reach back into the catalog of classics with fresh ears, and to add new songs equal to the high standard of the early days.
Essentially sequenced as a typical set from ‘92, disc one launches “Statesboro Blues,” Haynes and Dickey Betts’ dueling guitars singing from the start.Old and new collide, from “Blue Sky” and “You Don’t Love Me” to Shades cuts “End of the Line” and “Nobody Knows,” with Allman in exceptional, rejuvenated voice on the latter three, before the band convenes for a brief sit-down. As was customary for a Brothers show at the time, an acoustic mini-set bridges the electricity, featuring the Seven Turns title track and a side-closing rendition of Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen.”Disc two plugs back in for an unrelenting assault of instrumental and improvisational warhorses.Offerings to the guitar gods “Jessica,” In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” “Dreams,” and of course, “Whipping Post,” all roar with strength and vitality, Woody’s bass never more propulsive than on the kinetic, climbing “Elizabeth Reed,” in step with the jazz-inflected dual drumming of Butch Trucks and Jaimoe. Ultimately it’s Haynes who is a star among stars. With a most difficult job of standing in Duane’s spot while asserting his own style, he is magnificent, finding a way to honor and originate, and challenging Betts to expand his vocabulary, making for some memorable six-string conversations.
The Allman Brothers Band has issued many a live album, from official releases, to archival recordings, to concert mementos, and they all have At Fillmore East as their bar. Play All Night will not supplant it for the top spot, but it is a fine reminder of the potency of the music and of these musicians.For anyone fortunate enough to have witnessed the band in 1992, this will bring a gusher of wonderful memories, and for those that didn’t, now is the time.