Back in the Fall of 1991, the Black Crowes came to the local venue by our house in Cambridge, England and I didn’t go because no one would go with me. I wasn’t as evolved as I am now, and wasn’t open to doing such things by myself. Now, I prefer it that way. I’ve lived with the regret ever since. I’m less a fan now than I was then and the band keeps breaking up, so it has felt several times that I missed my best window to get it right.
My other fear, and it’s one that came to fruition Saturday night, is that the band is prone to long jams that go on and on and make standing for 3 hours especially painful. I just don’t have the back for that anymore. Still, I’m very glad I went and get to cross them off my list. I’ll probably just never go again.
The show started perfectly. The first 90 mins or so went by fluidly. Songs had actual stops and starts and verses and hooks. Those sound like the basics, but when you have a band that likes to jam, many of those key elements get pushed aside in favor of indulgent noodling and psychedelia. Chris Robinson has one of the greatest voices in rock. He still looks like the heroin-addicted scarecrow he probably is, but the lungs have only improved with age. And, he has a natural stage presence that is a commendable counterstrike to the rest of the bands statuesque poses. I could have used a bit more emotion. Drop to your knees with the mic stand, James Brown style, or raise your arms to the Gods of high notes. There was no such posturing. But, his bopping and clapping was still fairly infectious.
They only played one hit, “Remedy” which I was afraid might happen. I know the hits and I know the new album a little bit, so I was lost most of the night. However, instead of anxiously awaiting a song I knew, I just went along for the ride and took what they gave. The highlight was when they brought out opening act Vetiver (never heard of ‘em, so didn’t see them) for a couple of songs. The first was “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” by the Byrds, a song I love and was elated to hear. Both bands made for about 12-15 people on the stage and it became an acoustic hootenanny, like one of those barnburner jams you see on one of those all-star concerts where different performers trade off taking a verse or solo. I was pretty proud of myself for knowing, what I assumed was, an obscure song so I made sure people could see my singing along by pulling my patented move of needlessly looking on either side of me, as if I’m waiting for someone. In my mind, I’m hoping people are not only impressed that I know the words to this weird little song, but also assuming I must be important since I’m obviously looking around with a purpose. After the Byrds ditty, they did “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”, the perfect choice.
Unfortunately, after this high point, the show turned into the jam I was trying to avoid. Three songs filled up the next 45 minutes or so and I don’t think any of them even had lyrics, depriving us of Chris’s voice which is their best asset. That part got long, but not really boring, luckily.
By the end, I was mostly satisfied. It hit me that the Robinson boys are no posers. They have a deep appreciation for roots and classic rock and aren’t wading in the shallow end of the pool. They’re in it legitimately and the love and respect run deep and naturally. God bless ‘em for it.