Dickey Betts’ performance Saturday at Robarts Arena in Sarasota ranged from brilliant to emotive to ebullient, often in the same song. The guitar great, who has lived in the Sarasota area most of his life, elated and astounded the audience. He performed a set of cleverly updated, self-composed classics, mostly culled from his years with the Allman Brothers Band. In fact, it is doubtful Sarasota has hosted such a satisfying rock show since Dickey Betts and the rest of the original Allman Brothers played the same venue in 1971.
The headliner for the “Saving Austin’s Baby Blues” benefit, Dickey Betts and his backing band Great Southern took the stage around 9:30 p.m., launching into the dreamy introduction of “High Falls.” One of Betts’ most richly textured instrumentals, the song first appeared at nearly 15 minutes on the Allman Brothers Band’s 1975 album “Win or Lose Draw.” While striking in its original form, the composition reached a greater peak Saturday with bassist Pedro Arevalo leading the way for Betts’ fluid improvisations, which flowed over the spot-on drumming of Frankie Lombardi and Kenny Crawley. Guitarists Duane Betts (Dickey’s son), and Andy Aledort enriched the soundscape with delicate harmony lines and smart fills. Keyboardist Mike Kach glided in and out with flurries of keen notes. Dickey Betts and Great Southern sounded superb. The energy and creativity coming from the stage would continue throughout the special evening.
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