Allman Brothers no longer compete with the past


It used to be that the rallying cry for most Southern roc bands was "The South will rise again!" Indeed, there was a time in the mid-'70s, when acts like the Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Marshall Tucker Band and Elvin Bishop ruled the airwaves, that it almost did seem as if the power of the music would somehow recapture the glories of the past.

Not anymore, though. In fact, as Butch Trucks sees it, he and the rest of the Allman Brothers Band would just as soon put the past -- their past -- behind them.

It isn't that the group (which performs at the Merriweather PosPavilion tomorrow) has grown tired of its legacy, or bored with songs which built its reputation. "Obviously, when we play live, we're going to do the old stuff," he says. "It's kind of hard for us to get up and not do '[In Memory of] Elizabeth Reed' or 'Whipping Post.' "

But what bugged the band for years, he adds, was the sense that the Allmans were competing with their own reputation. "You know, we never got compared to other bands that are out there," he says, speaking over the phone from a tour bus rolling through New Jersey toward Albany, N.Y.

"We were always compared to what we used to be -- which is an impossibility. Because nobody really remembers what that band was like. It's so blown out of proportion that nobody could live up to it.

"But it seems like on this tour, more and more we're being accepted for who we are, and not so much compared to what we were. And it feels good, it feels very good."

Ironically, Trucks thinks one of the reasons the music seems so fresh now is because the band called it quits for a while. "I mean, you get up and you do it and do it, and after a while, you get a little desensitized," he says. "Tired and burned out. And after being away from each other for so long, we had a lot to say to each other, on a lot of different levels."

Better yet, the band is finding that there's an audience again for what it has to say -- not just on its new album, "Seven Turns," but on the concert circuit as well.

"I was talking to a writer earlier," Trucks says, "and what the guy was saying was that to listen to our music, you've got to sit down and pay attention. You've got to listen. 'Cause there's so much going on you can't just sit back and boogie and jump around."

"Now, there's this new instrumental we're playing, 'True Gravity.' It's a fairly complex, sophisticated tune -- there are three or four parts to the song, we go through some fairly complex meter changes, a very sophisticated chord structure.

"Sometimes you look out and you wonder if it's really getting through, because everybody's just sitting there. But then when you finish, you realize they're just enthralled. They're listening, they're paying attention."

And as far as Trucks is concerned, that's a relief -- particularly after the '80s, a decade he refers to as "a wasteland" that often emphasized spectacle over music-making.

"This is show business, and there's room for the shows and the personalities," he admits. "But I think there's also room for music, for people to play music, and there seems to be an audience developing that's willing to go listen to music again, rather than just be blown away by drum machines and choreography.

"After being away from it for so long, it's really nice to go out and have 10- or 15,000 people show up and enjoy it. It leaves you with a very good feeling."

Allman Brothers Band

When: Saturday, Sept. 22, 6 p.m.

Where: Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Tickets: $16.50 (lawn only available).

Call: (800) 543-3041 for tickets, 730-2424 for information.

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