Gregg Allman tended to unfinished business at Ameristar Casino on Saturday.
The Allman Brothers Band, his primary endeavor since he joined his namesake group in 1969, played its final show last year. Many musicians in his position might have used the momentous occasion as an excuse to retire from life on the road.
Based on the earnest intensity of his appearance on Saturday, Allman, 67, may not want his role in the Southern rock band to be his sole musical legacy.
A capacity audience of about 2,000 heard Allman reveal surprisingly divergent aspects of his stylistic range. He and an eight-piece backing band performed uptown blues, sophisticated funk and elegant rhythm and blues.
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The searing and often lengthy guitar explorations that characterized the Allman Brothers Band were supplanted by nimble saxophone solos, spacious percussion workouts and pleasing keyboard flourishes. Guitarist and musical director Scott Sharrard didn’t attempt to replicate the incendiary work of Allman Brothers Band guitarists like Warren Haynes or the late Duane Allman.
An overhaul of “Whipping Post,” the famous Allman composition that anchored the Allman Brothers Band’s debut album, transformed the ponderous original version into a supple Latin funk number.
An ingenious horn arrangement converted a reading of Allman’s 1987 solo hit “I’m No Angel” into a convincing soul nugget. A tender trumpet solo punctuated a simmering take on “Midnight Rider” that inspired many members of the audience to dance.
Allman’s mournful vocals on “Queen of Hearts” conveyed a sense of deep loss and immense pain. And hearing Allman’s alluringly battered voice deliver the melancholy 1972 hit “Melissa” remains a spine-tingling experience.
The song was one of a handful of a selections in which Allman stepped away from his organ. His impressive playing on “Hot ‘Lanta” evoked illustrious soul-jazz organists like Jack McDuff.
Inexcusably amateurish graphics that were projected on a screen above the stage detracted from the otherwise sublime concert. Many of the images looked as if they belonged in a 1970s head shop. Other effects resembled vintage computer screensavers. A montage that appeared during the opening selection, “Statesboro Blues,” was the only video segment that wasn’t an unwelcome distraction.
As Allman sang that his parents “died and left me,” the visages of jazz and blues giants including Jimmy Rushing and Muddy Waters were displayed above him. His imposing performance indicates that Allman merits a place among the ranks of those legends.
Statesboro Blues, I’m No Angel, Come and Go Blues, Queen of Hearts, Trouble No More, Southbound, Love Like Kerosene, Melissa, Black Hearted Woman, Hot ‘Lanta, Soulshine, Midnight Rider, Whipping Post, Southbound