By Anita Stewart, Managing Editor and Chyrisse Tabone, Photographer
Tour Stop: The Allman Betts Band with River Kittens
Venue: Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida
June 4, 2021
What a show! This was the fifth night of a long tour for the Allman Betts Band and this concert took place at the very plush and refined Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida which was recently remodeled. While the rest of the media folks clustered in the lobby with drinks, Katie Pedretty gave me a quick tour to show off the most recent up-levels. Katie is a force of nature with this local landmark and venue; she is their PR person and works at the Bilheimer Cap as well; see Rock at Night’s previous interview with her HERE. Some of the newer features included a donor’s wall made out of cut glass, a small stage in the lobby area, huge screens to view a show if an attendee has to walk out for a few minutes, efficient QR code ordering from the bar, separate private rooms for special functions and murals painted by a local artist. Really, one of the best places to see and enjoy a show!
The up and coming band, River Kittens came out to open. This is one of the first bands that Devon Allman has signed to his record label, Create Records and these two ladies did not disappoint! “Soaking Wet” is the title of their 6-song EP, a personal favorite song of mine is “Dressing on the Side,” a hilarious and very familiar ditty with super clever lyrics in honor of waitresses everywhere. The song “Trouble” has a new and very cool animated video, another stand out song. On the EP, they also do a cover of the Beastie Boys “(You Gotta Fight) For Your Right (to Party).” The River Kittens definitely have new fans after doing this show and their banter between the songs is cute, funny and engaging! Insightful lyrics accompanied with great playing on guitar, ukulele, mandolin and harmonizing voices–their genre can best be described as a touch of bluegrass, folk, roots and Americana all mixed together. Rock at Night loved them! We got to connect with the ladies at their merch table–so stay tuned for an upcoming “grrlpower” interview with them. We are going to get the inside skinny on what it is like to be women on a major tour like this one. They are over the moon about being a part of it!
The Allman Betts Band were preceded by a cool song that reminded me of Western movies, but I could not get to my phone quick enough to Shazam the audio to get the title. The band stepped out onstage to the first familiar notes of the Allman Brothers’ song “Dreams” and this was awesome, a stellar performance of this tune! The crowd sang along and cheered at the end and then there was a standing ovation, the first of many throughout the night.
I really can’t pick out any stand-out songs throughout this show–they were all so awesome, performed expertly, covers as well as their originals from their two album releases: “Down to the River” and the latest “Bless Your Heart” and the tributes to their dads with several covers of several Allman Brothers songs, all great. Every musician on the stage had a chance to shine! This is one of the few bands that listeners will say, sound better live than recorded and we know that to achieve that kind of moniker takes some musical expertise. Standing ovations happened after every single song!
Some of my favorites included Donald Fagen‘s “Green Flower Street” with a cool keyboard spotlight for John Ginty and a jazzy vocal part sung by percussionist R. Scott Bryan. “Savannah’s Dream” is a 12 minute long jam that everyone in the band contributed to; with a bit of fusion, jazz, classical guitar, Latin rhythms in places, almost sounding like classical music too and can’t forget the exceptional stand out bass lines by Berry Duane Oakley, Jr. The lyrics to “Blue Sky” are an emotional escape for me, a personal mantra to help me look at things positively. Devon, Duane and Johnny Stachela knocked the guitar work on this one right out of the box! John Lum is a great drummer that kept perfect time no matter what the style or genre of song. Berry Duane Oakley Jr. put down the bass and got on the keys to offer up his song “Doctor’s Daughter” in tribute for a friend of his that passed on; it was poignant and lovely. Duane Betts‘ “Autumn Breeze” is captivating with the scaling interludes! The interplay between Duane and Johnny Stachela on lead and slide guitar work is fascinating to watch. “Pale Horse Rider” with the film noire video short shows off the guitar work and Devon Allman‘s beautiful voice with vocal range.
Devon‘s voice could not be any more different from his father’s. While Gregg Allman had a bluesy, soulful, R&B kind of voice, Devon‘s is growling at times, but more often smooth as silk with an unusual timbre and a harmonizing quality along with a powerful vibrato. A couple of times he walked away from the mike while singing and his voice could still be heard throughout the large venue. During our recent interview I didn’t ask him about his voice and how he kept it conditioned–I wish I had.
Devon pulled the River Kittens back on the stage for the encore and they performed a Bruce Springsteen cover song, “Atlantic City” (this is also a brand new video) that turned into an audience sing-along as the full band came back up on stage and joined in. The last song by the Allman Betts Band was the classic “Southbound” by the Allman Brothers which ended with thunderous applause and the last standing ovation (no matter where I have traveled in the world, this is always the song I was singing when I was heading home). Tour info HERE including the upcoming livestreams if you can’t make it to a live show. This week’s interview with Devon Allman and Berry Duane Oakley Jr. is HERE.
Dreams, Magnolia Road, Shinin’, Pale Horse Rider, Autumn Breeze, Friend of the Devil, Midnight Rider, Blue Sky, Savannah’s Dream, Down to the River, Green Flower Street, Airboats & Cocaine, The Doctor’s Daughter, Rivers Run, Long Gone and Encore: Atlantic City with River Kittens, Southbound