See Dickie run: Dickie Betts and son Duane Betts rock out, Allman Brothers style, at the Syracuse Inner Harbor. MATT MUMAU PHOTOS
Betts, a founding member and one of the two original guitar players of the Allman Brothers Band along with the late great Duane Allman, has continued his Great Southern project since unceremoniously being asked to leave the Allmans in 2000. Taking his hefty arsenal of songs with him, he has continued to tour and play some of the Brothers’ classics and his own solo material.
Although Duane Allman often stole the limelight when it came to the "best guitarist" category, Betts carried the load after Allman's death in 1971 and is himself one of the best singers and guitarists of his era.
Proving himself immediately with a staggering instrumental, Great Southern ran through some of Betts' solo work before turning their attention to his famous catalog. As the setting sun cast multilevel rays of sunshine across the stage, the band tore into "Franklin's Tower,” which segued into a run through “Blue Sky," a guitar-driven tour-de-force that allowed Betts and guitarist Andy Aledort to shine in extended solos. Aledort, who joined the band in 2006, handled all slide guitar duties--a signature of the Allman Brothers--and represented himself well. Filling the shoes of the other two slide players who prominently shared the stage with Betts, Allman and Derek Trucks, is no easy task, yet Aledort impressed.
Swinging through blues classics such as "One Way Out" and "Statesboro Blues," with keyboard player Mike Kach filling in the vocals once taken on by Gregg Allman, the band attacked the first set, save for a forgettable foray into a song written by Betts' son and the third guitarist, Duane Betts. While his wiry build and mustache made him a spitting image of his father, Duane possessed only a small part of his dad's prodigious guitar and singing skills.
But all manner of doubt about the band was completely erased when the beginning notes of "Jessica" flew from Dickey's guitar. It immediately ignited the crowd, whose roars got louder as the progressive tune’s soaring guitar lines and familiar lead parts were played. While the band may have been walking through a list of Betts' greatest hits, the arrangements were fresh and new parts were added and shifted, creating a whole new take on some of his classic recordings. As "Jessica" wound toward its classic guitar solo, it took a subtle turn and wound up with the familiar sounds of "Mountain Jam" before returning back to where it started, completing the group’s first set.
After Betts and the band retreated backstage to "burn some rope," as Dickey put it, they launched into a 16-minute version of "Nobody Knows," which saw Betts go face-to-face with bassist Pedro Arevalo, pushing him into new territory during the jam. Arevalo's prominence in the set continued when he stepped up to sing the rollicking "Hoochie Coochie Man," which was sung by original Allman Brothers bass player Berry Oakley on their eponymous debut album in 1969.
While Pedro growled out the vocals, the guitarists traded solos and whipped the song into a frenzy with the crowd following along. The set only got hotter with the classic instrumental "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," which also received a new facelift from Great Southern.
Winding its way through a series of new parts and sections, Aledor’s astonishing solo blew apart the song. Only Dickey's lead parts could top it, but his own solo was cut a little bit short and didn't reach the heights of Aledort's. Following a percussion break which highlighted the impressive work of drummers Frankie Lombardi and Garrett Dawson, the band brought the song back around to the beginning, clocking it in at over 25 minutes.
After a run-through the Brothers' wistful rocker "Nobody Left To Run With," the band came back for an encore of "Ramblin' Man," which had the assembled throng singing along.