Gregg Allman - lead vocals, organ, electric piano; Dickey Betts - lead guitar, slide guitar; Lamar Williams - bass; Chuck Leavell - piano; Butch Trucks - drums, percussion; Jai Johanson - drums
Few bands could have recovered from such tragic personnel losses as did The Allman Brothers Band in 1973. After the death of Duane Allman in 1971 and Berry Oakley the following year, few would have thought The Allman Brothers Band could carry on. One key to the group's remarkably successful recuperation was their recognition of the futility of trying to replace such distinctive musicians. Rather than go through the anguish of trying, the group brought in fresh blood in the form of pianist Chuck Leavell and bassist Lamar Williams. With the release of Brothers and Sisters, they ventured in a more countrified direction that won many new fans while retaining a good portion of the old. Then, in a remarkable twist of fate, the band suddenly had a hit single racing up the charts with "Ramblin' Man." Unexpectedly, the Allman Brothers had become the most popular live act in America.
This show captures the group right at that point in time. They are still feeling their way back on older material, but play all the newer material from Brothers and Sisters and some of the Eat a Peach material that hadn't been previously performed in concert with a renewed enthusiasm. Much to the amazement of die-hard Duane fans, Dickey Betts rose to the challenge of exclusively handling guitar duties for the group, and proved a more than capable lead guitarist in his own right, developing his own, distinctive style while acknowledging his debt to brother Duane.
On this tour, the band was primarily playing huge sporting arenas and outdoor festivals, such as Watkins Glen that summer; but, as a favor to Bill Graham, they agreed to play the much smaller Winterland on this date.
Following Graham's introduction, the band kicks off with an hour or so of songs from Brothers and Sisters and some of the blues covers from their earlier albums. Betts' guitar playing had become far more expressive, and to everyone's surprise, he had absorbed a lot of Allman's electric bottleneck slide technique. The nearly 18-minute "Elizabeth Reed" shows just how inventive and distinctive Betts had become.
During the second hour, the band grows more adventurous. Starting with the high paced shuffle of "Southbound," Betts' hot blooded guitar and Leavell's graceful piano playing set an energetic tone. Next is the Django Reinhardt inspired instrumental "Jessica," full of dancing keyboards and expressive joy. Following a ten minute jam on "You Don't Love Me," featuring improvisations on the "Amazing Grace" theme, comes the highlight of this show: "Les Brers In A Minor." The most sophisticated and complicated Eat a Peach track, this piece was particularly difficult to play shows this ABB lineup at both their compositional and expressive best. The lovely "Blue Sky" and bluesy "Trouble No More" end the set.
After the emotional rollercoaster of the preceding year, it's both beautiful and moving to see the band, in its new reincarnation, finding their own, distinctive direction - and without losing an ounce of speed. Whatever forms and paths the group would go on to take, the ride, and all of its excitement, was far from over.