Long lamented has been the decision to include interview segments that interrupt and shorten concert excerpts in the original DVD release of The Allman Brothers Band Live at Great Woods. Fans on every ABB-related internet outlet, every comment section or forum or message board have bemoaned vehemently the disc and recommended instead the VHS version that featured 90 minutes of unadulterated performance footage, unfortunately one that also had gone out-of-print and rare on the secondary market. Rejoice, Brothers buffs, as that prized VHS version is now available on DVD.
Originally filmed for a Japanese television program, the 11-song set is not the complete concert from September 6, 1991, but it is the bulk of the show, and chocked with staples from a lineup that would be considered one of the stronger in the group’s 45-year history. In support of its Shades of Two Worlds album, the seven-piece ensemble, a favorite of Massachusetts audiences, rolled into the rural outdoor venue for a late-summer stop on the amphitheater circuit. The familiar confines find the band relaxed and freewheeling, two years after celebrating its 20th anniversary reunion. Newest members Warren Haynes, Allen Woody, and Marc Quinones are exceptional in their abilities to assimilate and sparkle, each bringing a personal approach that echoes the group’s inimitable sense of unity and expression, yet allows them to showcase their respective styles and skills. It’s this melting pot of music that made the late Duane Allman’s seminal experiment so influential to begin with, and is embraced fully by this trio.
While Shades cuts “End of the Line” and “Get On With Your Life” make their mark, the majority of the entries are Brothers classics, driven by the twin-guitar attack of Haynes and founding member Dickey Betts. Whether it’s the country leanings of “Blue Sky” or the psychedelic jazz of “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” the pair twists telepathically, interlocking like two kites, diverging then colliding in a duel of soaring notes, always tethered by Woody’s commanding bass and the cornerstone drumming of duo Butch Trucks and Jaimoe. Gregg Allman, youthful and sharp, breathes the blues with every growl, cry, and shout, fueling the fire on opener “Statesboro Blues,” and feeding it all the way through to the “Whipping Post” finale.
22 years later, the version Allman Brothers Band fans have wanted on DVD does not disappoint. It’s a blistering display from an awe-inspiring band. Finally, the time has come to put that Live at Great Woods VHS in the donation box.