The title decieves. This wasn’t ‘just’ Gregg Allman but an evening featuring some of the Blues genres brightest stars. Derek Trucks recently crowned a year of Awards for his own band to split it up and go on Tour with his wife Susan Tedeschi, herself a highly rated musician back in the USA. Not forgetting either that there was also a Brit blues talent making his Bonn debut in the shape of young (just 19) Krissy Matthews.
Oxford born Krissy Matthews took the stage at 5.15 when many people were still arriving for a long evening of music. Rather like Jimmy Bowskill from last years 3 J’s concert he had to see the audience gradually grow for his show until just when it got to a good size the set had to finish. Not before he showed some great Bonamassa style flourishes of Gibson virtuosity though, ably backed by his Australian drummer and his father Keith on bass (shades of The Brew and Danny Bryant!). On this evidence his new CD ‘Hit the Rock’ will be worth a listen for Blues rock fans and when I spoke to him later he told me of German gigs in the pipeline, including the Yard Club in Cologne. Nice guy, big future.
Derek Trucks already has a reputation amongst Blues fans in America. Susan Tedeschi does too and since they are married, and living not far from Greg Allman it seemed natural to tour together or as Tedeschi put it in an interview with ‘Blues News’ “Although we live near each other it seems we only have time to get together at gigs!”. There are certainly as many Trucks as Allman T-shirts being worn in the audience so there is a big welcome when Trucks and Tedeschi come onstage. Tedeschi is eyecatching in a short silk style summer dress but she is soon ear catching too. I’d heard that the lady was a fine guitarist, but it was her voice that really impressed me in Bonn. Tedeschi’s guitar seems covered in signatures, well wishes, and maybe even maps of gig locations long gone. It’s a sign too of the rough edge to her music. “Talking, talking in my sleep” or “I’m not leaving”, when she sings blues lines like these, you’d better believe it! A large contingent of the audience have come to see her husband play tonight though. I know Julian Sas was there and I heard that Henrik Freischlader dropped by too which is a tribute to the regard musicians themselves held for Trucks. He has a slow, easy style about him, in contrast to the guitar hero poses of even the young Krissy Matthews it’s clear that Trucks isn’t here to be seen – he is here to play.
The original Derek Trucks Band had a mission, according to their MySpace, of exploring music and melding styles – Rock, progressive, Jazz, Oriental, a bit of everything. With all the musicians onstage (eleven including two drummers) he and Tedeschi have obviously looked to cover every base and when Trucks caresses his guitar it must almost make Tedeschi jealous. He coaxes some amazing sounds out of it too. Mandolin and sitar? not needed, just a Gibson and a gifted guitar man. Tedeschi’s Blues is a perfect and much needed counter-weight to the Jazz oriented interludes and the Stevie Wonder ‘Everything is Alright’ was a welcome surprise that showcased Tedeschi is as good on vocal chords as she is on guitar ones.
When Greg Allman arrives onstage it’s like an old friend taking his turn at the family piano. No big deal, just sit and play. The photopit is in well ordered chaos as everyone tries to stand in the one square foot of space that allows a decent shot of his face. No big deal, our problem, Allman’s cool at his Hammond B3 which seems to be built around a wooden church pew and a pulpit. I hope some keyboard expert will tell me what that was – usually Hammond means a slim keyboard on a rack. Not in Florida, obviously. There are many songs from the new CD of course and a fair shot of Blues.
Floyd Miles takes over vocals for a soulful ‘Drives Me Crazy’. “We’ve been playing together since I was fourteen’ says Allman. Although he regularly wipes sweat from his brow and looks a little fragile Greg Allman is still up to playing a mean guitar and Rock vocals. ‘Riding Pump’ went down a storm, as did ‘Just before the bullets fly’. Big cheers as Tedeschi and Trucks joined in and the vocal exchanges between Allman and Tedeschi on Little Miltons ‘I Feel So Bad’ were a joy to hear. A joy too was Muddy’s ‘I can’t be satisfied’ with it’s saxophone powered chorus. Inspired by this, Someone in the crowd shouts “We want more Blues” and Allmann answers with a smile and a look to the heavens “The night is still young!” It isn’t though, time is running on as he plays Jackson Brown’s ‘These Days’ “From back when we were room-mates” he muses beforehand. There is also a laid back ‘Melissa’ with flute solo. ‘A silky smooth ‘Midnight Rider’ and a funky ‘Tied to the Whipping Post’ and the clock is ticking. Before we know (or want) it there is only time for the encores. Finally the shouter for “Blues!” gets his wish as the band hammer out a gutsy ‘One Way Out’ that Sonny Boy was dancing to in heaven I’m sure.
A wonderful night then. Not just for Blues, but for musicianship. Counting heads is impossible since there seemed so many musicians in the evening. Counting great musicians who loved music was easy though – ALL of them.