Last week, when I wrote about the upcoming Gregg Allman concert, I caught hell from his fans for stating that some have laid claim that Allman coined the term "Southern rock." Commenters said to do some research. After all, everyone knew Gregg Allman hated that term being thrown around to describe his work with the Allman Brothers Band.
After seeing Allman play a solo show at Hard Rock Live Sunday night, I stand corrected. The man who was as synonymous in my mind with Southern rock as anyone this side of Lynyrd Skynyrd gave a performance that was more Chicago-blues-based than rock 'n' roll from below the Mason-Dixon.
At 8:15, the legendary singer took the stage in blue jeans and a black shirt. He waved to the crowd and did a pimp walk to his Hammond organ, followed by the eight members of his backing band.
Allman promised to play some old stuff and some new stuff and followed through. The first portion of the evening, he stayed seated, stage right, hollering out the words from behind his organ to loud applause for "I'm No Angel" and "Please Call Home."
The setup was barebones, without any visual flairs. There were no high-definition screens nor pyrotechnics. He allowed his band to shine through a 16-song set. His keyboardist added a jazzy solo for "Come and Go Blues." The three-man horn section and percussionist were allowed to experiment with what could be described as Latin rhythms. But it was the blues that carried the biggest influence, from a cover of T Bone Walker's "Stormy Monday" to Blind Willie McTell's "Statesboro Blues" to the closing number, a sped-up, nearly unrecognizable rendition of "Whipping Post."
It was interesting that in this day and age, when guys like Billly Corgan or Axl Rose will tour with random shmoes and still call themselves the Smashing Pumpkins or Guns 'N Roses, Gregg Allman would break up a band carrying his surname and then tour a solo show that's composed mostly of Allman Brothers Band songs. But the man evidently doesn't believe in false advertising. And perhaps by not carrying the label of the Allman Brothers gave him room to experiment with their trademark songs. "Midnight Rider" was brought down to a slower tempo, stretching it out for a chance to give the guitarist a solo. Most beautiful was "Melissa," which Allman strummed his guitar along to like a gentle river breeze.
Opener Amanda Shires is a Lubbock, Texas, fiddler and guitarist who was accompanied by an upright bassist and a drummer who played standing behind his kit. Shires has an angelic bluegrass singing voice but spent much of her 45-minute set telling the long-winded backstories behind her songs.
Gregg Allman, on the other hand, didn't say much between his songs save for introducing the members of his band halfway through and at the end graciously saying "thank y'all for coming." Perhaps if he spoke more, more "y'all's" might come out and all his hard work erasing the "Southern rock" descriptor would be undone.