Allman Betts Band
November 21, 2020
Review and Photos by Greg Perry
Allman Betts Band Help Columbia Celebrate the Return of Live Music!
Big time live music returned to Columbia, S.C. this week as the new Columbia Speedway concert venue opened for business. The new “Social Distanced” venue, which is committed to keeping everyone safe in this COVID world, hosted several shows during the week but saved the best for prime-time Saturday night when the Allman Betts Band made an appearance.
For those of you unfamiliar with this band, the core of the group is comprised of three sons of legendary Allman Brothers Band members Gregg, Dickey and Berry respectively. The band’s line-up consists of Devon Allman and Duane Betts on vocals and guitar, Berry Oakley on Bass, vocals and keyboard, Johnny Stachela on electric and slide guitar, R. Scott Bryan on percussion, John Lum on drums and rounding out the group is John Ginty who mans the Hammond B3 and keyboards.
The show got started just after 8 when Tab Benoit made an appearance and warmed the crowd up on this chilly November night with a killer 40-minute set highlighting his incredible voice and outstanding guitar talents. He thanked the audience for coming out and supporting live music’s return and, as he stated to a loud applause, “Live music is much better; Streaming is for Streams”.
After a short break, the headliner of the evening The Allman Betts Band took the stage and came out strong getting the party started with a pair of tracks from their latest album “Bless Your Heart”. First up was the incredible rocker “Airboats and Cocaine”, which is a steaming rocker, powered by a driving beat from the fantastic rhythm section, dual lead vocals and solid guitar work from Devon Allman and Duane Betts and finished off with a killer slide guitar solo from Johnny Stachela. As the track ended, Devon tossed his guitar pick into the night and those in attendance expressed their approval to the obvious delight of the entire band.
Without giving the applause time to fully die down, Duane Betts stepped to the mic taking the lead vocals and as the band counted off they all jumped head first into a spirited performance of “King Crawler,” which as previously mentioned is another of the fine tracks from their latest album. The song is pure southern rock and as the relentless beat hammers home, the guitars trade killer licks while the slide guitar wails all while Betts delivers a wonderful lead vocal perfectly harmonized by Allman.
These were two of the seven tracks from the new album they would perform on this night, as in addition to these we were treated to Devon Allman taking the lead vocals for “Carolina Song” which he dedicated to the good folks from South Carolina who had come out for the show. The excellent tour de force “Magnolia Road” on which Betts and Allman once again share the lead vocals, Betts provides incendiary lead guitar licks, John Ginty tickles the keys and Johnny Stachela’s amazing slide guitar skills really shine. A dreamy dozen minute instrumental very reminiscent of those marathon Allman Brothers classic jams “Savannah’s Dream” on which nearly every member of the band had a solo at some point.
Berry Oakley took to the piano and lead vocals for an excellent rendition of this reviewer’s favorite track from the new album “The Doctor’s Daughter”. The song is haunting, mysterious and beautiful all at once as the vocals, acoustic guitar, piano, and the beautiful slide guitar notes intertwine to perfection, a true tour de force track. Last to be heard from the album was its lead track “Pale Horse Rider” which made an appearance leading off the shows encore, excellent track which really highlights the amazing voice of Devon Allman and the tremendous skill of these fine musicians.
In addition to the tracks from the new record, we were blessed to hear a few from their 2019 debut album including its title track, the fantastic “Down to the River”. The crowd was absolutely thrilled that the setlist included an excellent cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain” which was extended into an eight-minute tribute to his purpleness. When the song came to a close, the crowd roared long and hard with their seal of approval.
The loudest applause time and again however was reserved for the real treats of the night which occurred as during the roughly 100-minute show they scattered three Allman Brothers classics into the mix. These were made extra special as you could easily feel the family pride as each of the sons took the lead and gave heart felt rendition of songs taken to legendary status by their dads.
First to make an appearance about mid-show was “Blue Sky” and as Stachela played the slide, while Betts played lead and sang the lyrics written by his father to perfection all of our hearts just soared and for a bit we no longer even realized it was a cold night and we were outside. The extended solo break was exceptional as the entire band delivered a killer performance.
Late in the show as they closed out the pre-encore portion, Berry Oakley took the lead on vocals and belted out a powerhouse version of “Trouble No More” as Betts, Stachela and Allman traded explosive riffs on guitar, Lum and Bryan pounded the drums and Ginty stroked those keys all to note-per-note perfection. Not a soul in the place was seated by the time this out of this world performance ended, all were on their feet, cheering, whistling and screaming their appreciation as the band exited the stage and the lights went down.
To close out the wonderful show, Devon took center stage, thanked everyone for coming and asked us to sing along with this last one if you knew the words, to which he started strumming the acoustic guitar to the classic “Midnight Rider”. The venue erupted with approval and it’s pretty safe to say you would have been hard pressed to find anyone in the place that didn’t know the words and who wasn’t singing along at the top of their lungs. As the song came to a close, they all thanked everyone once again, tossed guitar picks, took their bows and exited off to backstage all to the loud approval of an appreciative live audience
As we exited the facility, one thing was clear to everyone in attendance, we had all enjoyed one heck of a great time, everyone happy, singing, smiling ear to ear and extremely grateful to be able to enjoy a live show from excellent musicians once again. Thank you to the Columbia Speedway, Tab Benoit and Allman Betts Band for allowing us all to feel normal and joyous again if only for a few hours.