Devon Allman, whose dad is none other than blues/rock legend Greg Allman, seems to have found that groove where his father’s shadow (in the form of Devon displaying enormous talent in the style of his dad) is just the sort of place where he can shine brightly in his own right. Devon’s set at the Cedar Rapids Irish Fest was a prime example of how a talented son can take the gifts his father gave him and make them his own.
It was obvious from the opening number that musically, Devon is definitely his father’s SON. I emphasize son because absent was any attempt to invoke Greg Allman in the set as a way of garnishing Devon’s efforts. It wasn’t needed. From the very start, he grabbed attention solely for himself with a commanding stage presence combined with ever so tasty riffs and chords resounding from his Les Paul. Both with his guitar, and vocally, Devon showed the obvious influence of his family heritage, but in no way could he be accused of trying to copy his dad. In fact, I would venture that Devon is the better vocalist: I simply like how he sings better.
I’d never listened to Devon before, but it took only two numbers to win me as a convert.
A blues/rock concert is all about the music, and having a good time to the music and Devon knows that. He kept between-song chatter to a minimum, or even non-existent. At times he and his more-than-capable band charged right into the next number with only a nod as acknowledgment of the audience applause. There was plenty of applause, too, because the venue filled up as the rain stopped, and people had easy access right up to the edge of the stage. They were there to hear Devon hold forth blues/rock Truth, and they were not disappointed.
For me the highlight of Devon’s blues/rock Truth was “Midnight Lake Mission”. It’s an extended jam that takes everything there is to like about guitar driven blues/rock and lays it out as raw and unfettered as it’s supposed to be. Devon made it a song where man and guitar merged into a single, music-generating entity.
I also liked Devon’s version of “I’ll Be Around”, the classic by The Spinners. He gave the song a 70s feel, from the opening riffs down to the wah wah pedal. But he still sang it with his rough-edged blues voice, so it had a unique sound. He owned the song by including an extended, ripping solo before the last chorus. It proved he is willing to step outside of expectations and musical conventions to make music his way.
One other thing that won me over to Devon Allman: after barely an hour into the show, he indicated he was about to finish playing. The audience howled their protest, crying for more great music. Devon obliged and continued playing. I had to leave about half an hour later and he was still jamming. The man and his music, and pleasing his audience, are what a Devon Allman concert is all about.
(The Irish Fest is relatively young, but is fast becoming a good event for local bands as well mainliners. Noteworthy were performances by Summertown and Wooden Nickel Lottery. Though technically they were not opening acts, they helped set the mood for the Devon Allman Band by offering their own excellent level of musicianship and some solid original numbers.)