Yes, this is an eight-CD set of music that first appeared in 2004, shortly after The Allman Brothers Band completed its three-night, late-September run at Atlanta’s fabulous Fox Theatre. It’s now remastered and reissued, with one notable, sobering amendment. Printed in white ink on the back of the box are the words, “Dedicated to our Brother- Butch Trucks.”
The subtle, tasteful tribute to the drummer, and reminder of his tragic death, plus the recent news of Gregg Allman, on doctor’s orders, resting at his Georgia home make that 35th Anniversary weekend at the Fox, suddenly and sadly, feel longer than 13 years ago. But, this isn’t a collection meant for the melancholic. This is a celebration, and a fittingly fantastic one, with a comprehensive 55 songs played over three nights, only one repeated (“Dreams”), and several special guests on-hand to toast the Brothers.
Night one starts with a stampeding “Mountain Jam,” as guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks charge out of the gate, ready and hot. “Trouble No More” follows, with Allman in exceptional voice; the growl of the world-weary bluesman, never finer. A second set pairing of Derek and Dominos’ “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?” and the Grateful Dead’s “Franklin’s Tower” (with bassist Oteil Burbridge on vocals) surprises, but it’s the half-hour exploration of “Black Hearted Woman” and the following ethereal “Dreams,” with guest and former ABB guitarist Jack Pearson that tag this first show as particularly special.
Night two teases with a “Les Brers In A Minor” intro, then a rare triple-shot sequence of traditional openers- “Don’t Want You No More,” “It’s Not My Cross to Bear,” and “Statesboro Blues.” Then, the first set honors mostly the newer entries into the catalog, including a rumbling “Good Clean Fun,” the single from the group’s 1990 reunion record, Seven Turns. The second half is cover-heavy, riding in on The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Blues from “Key to the Highway,” and a guesting Susan Tedeschi carrying Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” or Butch’s son Vaylor on blinding guitar for a punchy “One Way Out,” show off the ensemble’s road-tested versatility. Only a soaring “Layla” finale could and does cap off effectively the cavalcade of covers.
The final show is the closest of the trio to a night strictly of Brothers classics. A solid “Revival” into a thunderous “Every Hungry Woman” set an early tone. A scintillating “Desdemona” and another terrific “Dreams,” feature Haynes and Derek Trucks, at times, like fighter jets on full aerial display- in formation then breaking, and circling back, only to take on a higher peak. There is also a nearly 40-minute reading of “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” helped along by guest Rob Baracco on keyboards, that spans into the third disc of the three-CD evening. Finally, the performance, weekend run, and box set close with, of course, “Whipping Post.”
Appropriately bittersweet, after another shining Allman vocal, another twin-guitar trip to the stars, it’s Butch, hammering away on timpani, providing the definitive, final beat