Not everyone has a Gibson Les Paul personally signed by Les Paul himself, but then not everyone can play it like Devon Allman. It would be easy to say that Devon had a head start in the music business as son of Allman Brothers legend Greg but it only takes a few notes from the said guitar to prove that this man’s success is down to ability and not parentage – unless of course it’s because musical talent runs in the genes.
It’s been a long tour thats started out in Colne, England, weaved it’s way through Swansea, made a short trip to Hell (in Norway, honestly!) and headed hrough Norway and Poland before winding up for the final show here at Bonn Harmonie. The strain is etched into Allman’s face when he strides onto the Harmonie stage and steps into his trademark guitar strap with large brass buckle. On the Amp behind sit a Buddha, a Star Wars Stormtrooper and Yoda. Allman will need the force with him tonight for sure.
His energy levels must have been bolstered by the good sized crowd considering it’s a Monday evening, and like a southbound train the Devon Allman band gradually pick up speed as the evening progresses. Steve Duerst is looking cool in his dark glasses beside Yoda and co with Anthony Nanney doing the necessary simply but effectively behind the drums. That’s a compliment, the best drummers don’t stand out, they mesh in, and Nanney meshes admirably into the beat – whether it be Rock, Funk or straight ahead Blues.
A surprise for me, given Allman’s obvious talents on six strings is the addition of an extra guitarist in the form of Bobby Schneck Junior (Senior can be seen in action with another guitar legend – Slash). Standing as I am in front of Schneck it occurs to me that he is loud and when Allman takes a solo I can barely hear it. Having paid to hear Devon Allman I decide to move more central and finally, from the balcony, I can really appreciate both guitarists equally.
First up from my new listening point is a famous track that Allman recorded on his first release from 2006 ‘Torch’ with his band Honeytribe. The songs fame comes though from it’s writer – Bob Marley. Nonetheless ‘No Woman No Cry’ is a perfect opportunity to examine the two guitarists in detail. Allman’s solo is first and it oozes class from it’s wah wah beginnings. He’s a master of dynamics, taking the tempo and volume up and down superbly. Scheck has more the classic Rock guitarists approach, playing loud n proud from start to finish. Me? I enjoyed the subtlety of the man with Les Paul’s endorsement. Hey, he above all should know who got the best out of his products.
An evening when lots of funky rock riffs were laid grandly before us, but I’m a Bluesman and hearing Sonny Boy’s ‘Checking up on my baby’ and ‘One Way Out’ were my highpoints. “How can such essentially simple music be around so long yet continually be reinvented and sound great?” I asked Allman later. “Because they’re beautiful songs” was his reply. On this fine evening, also beautifully interpreted. I came across an interview where Devon Allman describes the best musicians as those who put the song first and their ego second. A better way of describing the sound and success of Devon Allman I cannot think of.
It’s encore time and Allman is still going on that adrenalin rush as he attacks the title track from new CD ‘Say Your Prayers’. A cheering crowd can only take a man so far into an evening though. “I don’t have much left in the tank. But what I’ve got is yours!” he smiles, before delivering a tantalising soundcheck of classics. I hear a short burst of ‘Jessica’ to remind me of Warren Haynes super set recently in Cologne. It’s a chance for the band to shine for a final time before the final number of the evening. ‘One Way Out’ is the title and indeed, there is only one way out for a showman like Devon Allman – playing guitar.
“Bring on the mexican food and lovely ST L (St Louis) October. I get almost a month off” was how Devon Allman described his coming break via Facebook. Then he’ll be back on the road, and if you have any sense and are in the vicinity you will be there.