Concert review: Gregg Allman, a new lease on life - and music.

The rock legend struts his rejuvenated self at Ruth Eckerd Hall Tuesday night.

Posted by Eric Snider and Rod Millington on Thu, Jan 9, 2014 at 11:55 AM

Gregg Allman
  • Rod Millington
  • Gregg Allman
Amazing what a new liver will do for you. Three-and-a-half years ago, Gregg Allman, one of rock’s most notoriously hard-living characters, had that vital organ replaced after being diagnosed with Hep C, Cirrhosis and other ailments. His recovery was long and painful, but if his two-hour set at Ruth Eckerd Hall on Tuesday night was any indication, it’s been a success. (Text by Eric, photos by Rod.)

Allman, a month into his 66th year, was robust and fully engaged, backed by a six-piece band (five of them based in NYC, along with a Memphis drummer). He opened at his familiar stage-right perch behind a Hammond B-3 organ, then alternated between this spot and up front on guitar.

His rebounded health showed most profoundly in his voice — hearty, with a soulful graininess that easily pushed into a full-on blues shout (like when he let loose a roar with “the eagle flies on Friday” during “Stormy Monday”). In Allman Brothers Band shows, his vocals are often an accouterment to long guitar forays. For Allman solo gigs, it’s the focal point.

His singing ran the gamut: tender and reflective on ballads such as "These Days," "Queen of Hearts" and an utterly moving “Melissa”; rambunctious on a funked-up reworking of “Whipping Post” and rumba-fied “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More”; playful on the boogie-blues “Kerosene”; and something like twangy on “Floating Bridge,” the Sleepy John Estes tune Allman covered on his 2011 album Low Country Blues.

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  • Rod Millington
  • Gregg Allman
In contrast to the guitar fusillades of ABB concerts, Allman’s own shows share the wealth: saxophonist Jay Collins, jazz pedigree in tow, played several hard-charging tenor solos and gave a few songs some welcome R&B punch with guttural riffs on baritone. Electric pianist Ben Stivers spiced up many a tune with his boogie-esque sprinklings, but also added texture by providing the Rhodes parts on a number of ballads. And versatile guitarist Scott Sharrard more than held up his end, be it a sensitive back-and-forth with Allman’s son Devon, who guested on “Melissa” (and whose band opened), or a goosebump-raising tour de force on “Stormy Monday.”

In all, Allman and company delivered a warm, engaging performance on an uncommonly cold night for the 1,851 in attendance.

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