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Review: Dickey Betts @ The Opera House 3/09/05


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It was an exhausting night, for both the audience and the band - in a great way. Dickey didn't want to leave. When the encore song Ramblin' Man ended ( thankfully there was only one song ), it was 1:30am! Dickey and the band hit the stage at 9:50pm and the first set went past 11:30 - 20 minutes later and they were back at it! So, it was a long an exhausting night by the clock and by the pace created by the band.

Set I relied heavily on new Great Southern tunes which were well received, but High Falls ( from the ABB's Peakin' At The Beacon ), Blue Sky and Elizabeth Reed sent a jolt through the audience. Dickey wrote the songs and it feels right to hear his legendary guitar tone cutting through the packed house of a few hippies, many many aging, sweaty guys and a few of their bored or tired wives/girlfriends. The Betts-less line-up of today's Allman Brothers can only mimic Dickey's sound.

I'd say Dickey and the boys ( and girl ) were in good form throughout. Some songs weren't tight and Dickey's lead was a half-step off at times - but when he was on, things really heated-up. Original Great Southern and late 70's Allman Brother guitarist Dangerous Dan Toler impressed all night too, and challenged Dickey to match him solo for solo. Dan sounds like a more polished version of Dickey, but without relying on Betts' trademark pentatonic lead runs. Newest Great Southern member Pedro Arevalo's driving bass kept the energy flowing. Drummer Frankie Lombardi had big shoes to fill, four in fact, to replicated and the sound of three percussionists for the Allman Brothers songs -and he succeeded for the most part. His aggressive and technical style reminded me of Gov't Mule's Matt Abts, especially when Dickey chose to go exploring in Elizabeth Reed and No One To Run With.

I was pleased to hear some of the Greg Allman sung latter-era Allman Brothers songs aired-out last night too: Nobody Knows, No One To Run With, and the Robert Johnson cover Come On In My Kitchen ( from Shades Of Two Worlds ). Keyboardist Mike Katch shared the vocal duties with Dickey last night, but his voice doesn't have the power of Greg and it was evident on Nobody Knows and No One To Run With. Still, who could do Greg's voice justice? Katch is a fine keyboardist and had plenty of spirited solos, best being on Jessica, the highlight song of the night.

When opener blues protégé Jimmy Bowskill started his set, he played to a packed house, which I found unusual given it was only 8:30. Still, this kid has won national awards and developed a following. I could tell right away that Jimmy has talent. He has good guitar tone and doesn't rely on flash, something that made me slightly envious given his age. His voice is strikingly feminine, but it will soon mature. I think Toronto harp extraordinaire Jerome Godboo stole some of Jimmy's thunder, especially during the Muddy Waters covers and Howlin' Wolf's Spoonful. Jerome does have the advantage of playing those standards for 20+ years: Jimmy is only 14 and looks it. The true test of whether Jimmy makes it or not will depend on his originals, which are ok at this point. Keep an eye and ear on this punk. He may make blues purists proud.

Overall, Dickey Betts & Great Southern put on an excellent show. Set II, mostly Betts-penned Allman Brother songs, delivered better that Set I because of the Allman Brother content - plus these songs, like Southbound and Jessica are anthems. Jimmy Bowskill came on for a rousing rendition of Southbound and easily held his own, duelling note-for-note with Betts and Toler. When encore Ramblin Man ended, the band finished-up by shaking hands and signing autographs. Dickey seemed happy. That's an image I'll never forget.

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Great show. I was a little skeptical at first. At the beginning when Dickie said they'd play an hour and then take a break and come back for a couple more hours, I actually laughed and thought he was kidding or drunk.

Happily, I was proven wrong.

Thanks for the flyer Jay.

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