This double-disc live album spawned a thousand Southern-rock bands. Before the appearance of At Fillmore East, most young, white Southern musicians either backed great black soul singers, played country music or mimicked the Beatles. The Allman Brothers Band changed all that, and with the release of the Fillmore concerts, American rock & roll forever reclaimed its Southern roots.
More than just being a social marker, though, these shows — recorded in New York on March 12th and 13th, 1971 — remain the finest live rock performance ever committed to vinyl. From Duane Allman’s big, fat bottleneck slide-guitar lick, which jump-starts the first track (Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues”), to Berry Oakley’s chugging, Harley-engine bass line that gives the twenty-three-minute closer (“Whipping Post”) its haunting momentum, At Fillmore East captures America’s best blues-rock band at its peak. The musicians trade licks as though they’re tribal-dancing together, not just cranking out great rock & roll. The two drummers, two guitarists, organ and bass players lock together on instrumental tracks such as “Hot ‘Lanta” and the classic “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” with the grace and passion of the tightest jazz musicians.
At the centerpiece of At Fillmore East is the duo of brothers Gregg and Duane Allman. Never has a guitarist shown as much emotion as Duane does with his squalling slide work, and never has a singer equaled that emotion as Gregg does in his slurred warble on T-Bone Walker’s gorgeous “Stormy Monday.” It would never happen like this again: Less than six months after the release of At Fillmore East, the remarkable Duane Allman died in a motorcycle crash. But this document remains, and it continues to serve as a soundtrack for college dorms more than three decades after its release.