Gregg Allman Plays With .38 Special Guitarist

Son Devon Allman opens show at San Francisco's Fillmore.

SAN FRANCISCO — Veteran blues-rocker and founding Allman Brothers Band organist/singer Gregg Allman returned to the Fillmore on Saturday, backed by the Alameda All-Stars, including .38 Special guitarist Danny Chauncey.

The eight-piece Gregg Allman and Friends played a long set of blues-rock — including Allman Brothers standards such as "Melissa" and "Hot 'Lanta," Allman's 1987 solo hit "I'm No Angel" and a cover of the soul classic "Dark End of the Street."

"I've always said this is the best damn dance hall on the West Coast," the elder Allman said from behind his Hammond organ, perched at stage right, beneath the classic dance hall's black-lit crystal chandeliers.

The Allman Brothers Band played New York's Fillmore East and the original Fillmore, later the Fillmore West, in San Francisco, early in their 31-year career. The band released the seminal Live at the Fillmore East in 1970.

"Gregg Allman's in great shape," Kom Losy, 32, of Portland, Maine, said of the one-time San Francisco Bay Area resident. "He looks mean and clean, and he's a grandfather now, so I think he's pretty happy."

The band opened with the Allman Brothers instrumental "Hot' Lanta," from Live at the Fillmore East. Guitarists Chauncey and Mark McGee and saxophonist Mark Showalter traded solos, then cleared the way for Miles' conga breakdown.

McGee played the hook intro to "I'm No Angel," a hit from Allman's 1987 album of the same name. Drummer Jamo Van De Bogert moved the band into a chugging rock beat.

Percussionist Floyd Miles, whom Allman introduced as one of his oldest friends, stepped to the front of the stage to sing with B.B. King-style blues power on "I've Been Hurt."

Allman left his organ to play acoustic guitar on his slow, brooding version of the Allman Brothers' classic "Midnight Rider." Tommy Miller thumped a steady bassline as Allman growled the tune's road-weary lyrics.

"Love the Poison" from Allman's most recent album, Searching for Simplicity (1997), was driven by a funky, organ-based groove, accentuated by McGee's slide guitar.

Allman sang the ballad of forbidden love, "Dark End of the Street," atop a slow, gospel-inflected groove.

Second keyboardist Tommy Thompson moved to Allman's Hammond organ while Allman took another turn on acoustic guitar for "Melissa," from the Allman Brothers' Eat a Peach. The two guitarists took turns soloing in spots where the Allman Brothers' guitarists used to play dual, harmonic leads.

The band segued into a toned-down "Whipping Post" with an arrangement less angry and more blues-driven than the Allman Brothers' full-throttle version. McGee played searing riffs, then Showalter blew a solo over a dreamy groove.

McGee played slide guitar tones reminiscent of Allman's brother Duane, who died in 1971, on "Trouble No More" and a long, jammed-out "Statesboro Blues."

Allman's son, Devon Allman, opened the show with his six-month-old, seven-piece blues-rock combo Honey Tribe.

Honey Tribe's big blues sound was occasionally reminiscent of the Allman Brothers. Devon Allman's vocals reflected some of his father's deep growl, and the younger Allman quoted the riff from the instrumental "Jessica" during one drawn-out jam.

"I was reminded of the connection between [Bob] Dylan and his son," San Francisco poet Diamond Dave Whitaker, 63, said. "[Devon] seems to have the moves down, but ... I'm sure Gregg saw to it that Devon didn't have to go through what Gregg went through to be Gregg."