The Black Crowes Verizon Wireless Theater September 24, 2010
On their sort-of farewell tour before taking a hiatus, the Black Crowes didn't skimp on the musical goods, spending nearly 3 and a half hours onstage with a set list exploring the deep nooks and crannies of their discography. This was to the delight of hardcores, but generated head-scratching among some casuals who weren't sure what to make of the first, mostly acoustic, set and probably and would have recognized only the last three songs of the evening.
Nevertheless, the band delivered a strong show that unfolded at its own pace and with no rush.
The usually motor-mouthed vocalist Chris Robinson was unusually silent through the show, addressing the crowd only twice: once to spout out one of his nonsequitur "Chris-isms" ("You can't buy a special shampoo to get rid of us!"), and toward the end to thank the crowd for respecting their ban on the "fucking technology" of cell-phone video cameras - though he did call out one amateur Scorsese as "a douchebag."
The muted behavior somewhat dampened the celebratory nature of the show. Crack a smile once in a while, guys!
Perhaps more than any other lineup in the group's history, this version has seemed to gel the best, anchored by complementary guitarists Luther Dickinson and Rich Robinson - the latter taking more solos than in the past, including some inspired work on "Good Friday" and "Wiser Time." Drummer Steve Gorman, bassist Sven Pipien, keyboardist Adam MacDougall and two backup singers with an extra percussionist rounded out the players.
And while every one of the Crowes studio records had at least some representation, the best performances came from the underrated Three Snakes and One Charm: "Under a Mountain" and "Good Friday" in the first set and later "(Only) Halfway to Everywhere" and "Let Me Share The Ride." All had an unstoppable groove.
Houston also got the premiere of a Stones cover, "I Just Want to See His Face," the rarity "Smile" from the Band sessions, and the Croweology funkified version of "Downtown Money Waster," which supersedes the original Amorica take.
Where, when, and with what lineup the Black Crowes will return is anybody's guess. But for more than 20 years through early MTV stardom, changing popular tastes, brotherly breakups and finally a revival on their own terms and direction, they've proven why rock and roll needs more rock and roll bands like them. The nest is empty, but hopefully not for too long.
Personal Bias: Hardcore, bootleg-owning fan, but not slavish - even we can't defend Lions.
The Crowd: Thirty and fortysomethings. Smaller audience size than you'd think - the Tom Petty/ZZ Top show probably siphoned off casual Crowes fans.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Is this band the fucking Black Crowes? When are they going to rock out???"
Random Notebook Dump: Phil Hernandez yelling for "Thorn" and very, very stoked to get it. First show was the Crowes' 1992 gig at the Sam Houston Coliseum.
Soul Singing Hotel illness Under a Mountain Good Friday What Is Home Ballad In Urgency Wiser Time Driving Wheel Downtown Money Waster Smile My Morning Song
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(Only) Halfway to Everywhere Nonfiction I Just Want to See His Face Another Roadside Tragedy Let Me Share the Ride Movin' On Down the Line High Head Blues Thorn In My Pride Remedy