Allman Betts well worth the wait
Folks in Florence have been waiting a while – a long while -for The Allman Betts Band to take the Main Stage at the Francis Marion Performing Arts Center. When the band finally took the stage in front of a spaced out, socially-distanced crowd on Thursday, they did not disappoint.
From the first chords to the final note, ABB delivered a rock-solid show that reminded all in attendance that Southern Rock is still loud, proud and very much relevant in today’s modern music scene.
The group, which is touring in support of its second album, “Bless Your Heart,” is led by frontmen Devon Allman and Duane Betts. If the names sound familiar, they should. The two are sons of Southern Rock royalty, Greg Allman and Dickie Betts of the Allman Brothers. After playing several concerts together, the two decided to create ABB.
They convinced yet another person with Allman Brothers lineage to join them, bassist Barry Duane Oakley. Barry is son of Allman Brothers’ bassist Berry Oakley.
Recorded at the famed Muscle Shoals Music Studio where their fathers created their band’s most famous hits, ABB’s debut album,
“Down to the River” was released in 2019. The band returned to Muscle Shoals, Ala., in 2020 to record its latest record, “Bless Your Heart.”
ABB were originally scheduled to perform at the PAC in September of 2019, but that initial date was postponed due to band member illness. The concert was rescheduled for the spring of last year but was postponed yet again due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
ABB’s performance on Thursday was the first live music show at the PAC in more than a year. Taking safety issues into consideration, two socially distanced shows were lined up, leaving much smaller crowds to enjoy the concerts. That didn’t seem to matter to those who attended the shows.
After waiting so long to see ABB, the fact that the band was about a half an hour late taking the stage for its second show only made the crowd’s anticipation grow stronger.
When the lights came on and Betts’ fingers began to dance up and down the frets to the opening licks of “Magnolia Road,” the crowd got what it came for – some serious, hard-driving Southern rock mixed with a little blues and a guitar-driven ballad or two.
The band played songs from both of its releases. Singing lead vocals on “Shinin” from their debut album, Allman delivered a raspy-voiced performance reminiscent of his legendary father. On “Carolina Song,” which got the crowd amped up when it was introduced by Allman, Betts and slide guitar specialist Johnny Stachela had a chance to showcase their stellar skills.
Midway through the show, Allman retrieved a white acoustic guitar and walked back to the mic. When he and the band struck the first notes to “Midnight Rider,” an Allman Brothers classic, the crowd erupted. At the end of the song, Allman looked up, pointed to the sky and said, “That’s for you, pop.”
The set also included the rockers, “King Crawler,” “Airboats & Cocaine, ” and the mesmerizing instrumental “Dreams.” To close out the show Allman and crew had the crowd singing along as they put their own touch on Prince’s “Purple Rain.”
For an encore, ABB wowed the crowd with their rendition of another Allman Brothers’ favorite, “Sweet Melissa.
Allman, Betts, and Oakley were joined on stage by Stachela, keyboardist John Ginty, and drummers John Lum and R. Scott Bryan
Opening the show were The River Kittens, a St. Louis roots, rock and grass duo made up of Mattie Schell and Allie Vogler.
For ABB’s Allman, Betts and Oakley, it can’t be easy trying to carve out your own niche while standing in the shadows of famous fathers.
If the band’s first two albums and their show on Thursday night at the PAC are any indication, ABB deserves to be recognized