When the Allman Brothers Band first began what has become its annual Beacon Theatre residency in March of 1989, they played Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, and successfully sold out each show. At that time, no other artist could sell three or more shows in the same city, except Michael Jackson. The band was invited back the following year, and then the next year, and then it just sort of became a regular thing. Nobody knew it would last this long, but the fans kept coming, tickets kept selling, so dates got longer. For their 30th anniversary, the band performed 13 shows and then for their 40th in 2009, they played three weeks straight. With two hundred plus shows under their belt, the band has yet to atrophy, but that’s a given; they’re the Allman Brothers, man. What’s incredible is that they’re still not bored of this yet: “If it was up to me,” says drummer Jaimoe Johanson, “I’d be playing a three month residency!”
New York has always been considered a home away from for the Allman Brothers Band. As an epicenter of music, New York was constantly included in tour schedules. The band had played Bill Graham’s Fillmore East so often that they were jokingly dubbed as “Bill Graham’s House Band.” When the Fillmore shut its doors in the early seventies, the city lost a part of history, but then the Beacon took over. When it first opened in 1926, it served as a silent theatre; then, Warner Bros. bought it and in the film realm the venue stayed. Finally in 1974, a couple of rock junkies took over, and the Beacon Theatre continued where Graham had left off.
Except now, the band is performing Broadway. “Some people don’t understand that it is Broadway, and you can’t buy your way into it,” admits Jaimoe. What you see, or hear, is what you get and night after the band delivers, often times delivering to the same fans who couldn’t get enough ABB the first time around. The band has sold out shows but never sold out as a band; they’ve never tossed out their integrity, and that keeps the fans coming. When I asked Jaimoe what the worst part about having a two week residency was, he responded, “That it’s not two more weeks.” A lover of all things music, Jaimoe not only plays the Beacon residency but heads over to B.B. Kings for a midnight show with his Jasssz Band.
From all the Beacon shows, the band’s 40th Anniversary seems most memorable because “A LOT of people that we played with early, early on was there. Boz Scaggs was there, Dr. John was there and Eric Clapton. Clapton liked it so much, he came back and said, ‘I’d like to play the second set with you.’ Yeaaahhhh, man come on,’ I told him. Cause he can play. I mean he can play.” Surprise guests are always in order, usually arranged by Warren Haynes, and we can expect one or two this year.
To fans, coming to the Beacon has become a sort of pilgrimage, where they journey from their New York apartments and beyond to prove their devotion to the band. Under the theatre’s gilded ceiling, solace is found, and memories are made and revisited. Alternating setlists and special guests enticingly invite fans, but that’s not why they come to the Beacon. They want to be part of that sold-out crowd magic, to witness pure talent, and get that warm, tingly feeling inside. With the band, there lies a history and that is why New Yorkers who give a shit come every March. Half a century later, the Allman Brothers Band still delivers, except now there is a whole new generation of fans, thanks to parents passing along their rock ‘n’ roll ideals. I should know, I’m named after one of the band’s songs.
– Melissa Caruso