When a band with as long and storied a history as The Allman Brothers Band releases a recording that the liner notes dub as "The Best Show You've Never Heard", that's saying something - especially when it's archival release is paired with the final 49 minutes of Duane Allman's time with the band (released simulataneously as The Final Note). On the surface, and within the summer tour schedule from 2005, there's almost nothing that would indicate the quality of this performance: A Tuesday night in Erie, Pennsylvania hardly screams 'Must Have'. But dig a little deeper, and there's a lot to consider about this show, and this release, which, even without hearing the surrounding shows, make it a special night.
By 2005, the Allman Brothers were on top of their game. Their current lineup, led by the twin guitars of Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes were finishing their fourth summer together, and were an improvisational force to be reckoned with. And after spending the month of July playing back to back shows in a variety of venues and with and without opening acts, the band arrived in Erie with a day to rest and recharge, with a two-set 'Evening With' performance to look forward to. Warren Haynes' expertly crafted setlist for the evening provided a framework for which they could explore their catalog without all the time constraints that come with the aforementioned shows.
Haynes and Trucks grab the reins and hit the ground running right out of the gate, showcasing their now-cemented chemistry while leading the band through a spirited and fluid (as well as rare) set-opening Mountain Jam. Following the lengthy warmup, the spotlight turns to Gregg Allman, who leans into the Brother's staple Statesboro Blues with passion to match his dueling guitarist bandmates. The rest of the eight song opening set is a near perfect mixture of newer tracks, like the foot-stomping Firing Line from their most recent studio album, Hittin' The Note, and a romping late set Trouble No More, before Haynes and Trucks jump back in the driver's set and bring the first set in for a 9-minute landing by reprising Mountain Jam.
After an intermission, a much mellower set follows (further underlining the Haynes' brilliance as a setlist creator). Allman welcomes the sold out audience back to their seats with the classic Melissa, before slipping into a beautiful version of The Band's The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, featuring a magnicifent closing solo by Derek Trucks In a set flush with brilliant guitar work, including a tremendous performance of the band's classic, Dreams, the crown jewel may just be the appearance of Susan Tedeschi, a full-fledged member of the Allman Brothers family by 2005, who lent her angelic voice to Bob Dylan's Don't Thing Twice, before turning things over to Haynes and Trucks for a trademark Jessica to close out the scheduled portion of this epic evening of music.
This archival release is near absolute proof that on any given Sunday (or Tuesday in this case) The Allman Brothers Band, in any iteration, but certainly their final one, were capable of delivering a show for the ages. Furthermore, it only leaves one to wonder what other hidden gems are waiting in the wings of the band's archives. For that, we will have to wait and see, but for now, this brilliant show of musicianship should hold us over for a little while.