It would easily be an understatement to claim that legendary songwriter Gregg Allman has had a not-so-easy 2014. The voice and founding member of the Allman Brothers Band had a rough start to the year when Midnight Rider – the film adaptation of his 2012 autobiography My Cross To Bear – stopped production after a fatal on-set disaster left a young camera assistant hit and killed by a train while shooting in Wayne County, Georgia. The presence of that tragedy has only grown in the press after months of public scrutiny for the filmmakers’ negligence with safety precautions, leaving both the filmmakers and Allman himself the target of lawsuits.
Beyond the cinematic troubles to his legacy, Allman has continued to suffer from illness spawned from years of big living, including Hepatitis C that he claims he obtained from a dirty tattoo needle. The famously long blonde-haired Southern songwriter (who is claimed to be the one who invented the term “Southern Rock”) recently admitted himself into the hospital for non-disclosed reasons, and cancelled a handful of tour dates leading up to his first gig back on the road this past Saturday in Los Angeles.
The concert was put on by LA radio station KCRW as part of a free outdoor concert series in Century City Park this summer titled Country in the City, co-sponsored by The Annenberg Foundation which owns the neighboring Annenberg Space for Photography. Angelenos came out in droves to soak in the sweet, Southern Rock sounds of summer fun as country artist Sturgell Simpson kicked off the evening with a well received Country-Rock set as the sun went down. The mixed-age crowd of a few thousand flooded the lawn in front of the stage, surrounded in every direction by tall skyscrapers. Local LA brewery Golden Roads kept the lines in the beer garden plentiful (and gave away free mesh hats), and people of all ages enjoyed the picnic-like atmosphere of a summer Saturday in the park.
Then the true remaining Allman Brother took the stage with his amazing 8-piece backing band, looking skinny but ready to play. Dressed in black jeans, a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle t-shirt and a black leather jacket, the 66 year-old rock and roll pioneer sat behind his vintage B3 Hammond Organ and humbly thanked the excited crowd for coming out. The band then took off into the Allman Brother’s classic hit “Statesboro Blues” and everyone present instantly knew that not age nor illness were going to prevent Gregg from doing what he does so well. The explosive set of beautifully arranged songs stayed interesting from start to finish due to a widespread set list that mixed classic Allman Brothers hits such as “Whipping Post”, “Ain’t Wasting Time No More”, and “Melissa”, as well as classic Gregg Allman solo songs such as “I’m No Angel”, and “When The Bullets Fly”. Also contributing to the vibrant performance was the excellent execution of musicianship from the remarkable musicians in Allman’s band, consisting of drums, bass, keyboards, percussion, two baritone saxophones, trumpet, and of course electric guitar.
After an almost perfectly-timed 90-minute set Allman humbly thanked the crowd with a small grin and walked off stage to enormous applause, only to return with the band for an encore of the Allman Brothers famed hit, “One Way Out”. The sounds of the cheering audience reverberated off of the walls of the surrounding tall buildings as Gregg then left the stage for the evening, only after proving that despite the endless hardships, the illness and older age, Gregg Allman is here to stay.