Thursday, November 03, 2005

Live Show Review: Black Crowes

Music for Heads, made by Heads”-Chris Robinson

The Black Crowes
The Joint, Las Vegas, NV

A Saturday night in Vegas.

What else can be said? The energy, the action, the talent, the booze…all the proper ingredients for the makings of a great rock ‘n roll show.

A friend always reminds me that in order to win big in Vegas, you need to bet big. The reunited Black Crowes threw everything they had into Saturday night’s performance at the Joint, and between the roar of the audience and the smiles plastered on all the band member’s faces, everybody won big.

Billed as an evening with the Black Crowes, the first set opened with a slingshot of soul in the form of "Cursed Diamond", off the band’s third album, Amorica. The 1-2 punch of "Thick N’ Thin" and "Hotel Illness" got the crowd moving and grooving on the band’s patented cosmic swamp boogie as drummer Steve Gorman and bassist Sven Pipien laid a rock solid rhythm that wouldn’t flinch for the duration of the 2 hour and 40 minute show.

Touring together since March, the band has come together both musically and personally in ways longtime fans only thought occurred in dreams and stoned hypothisizing. The syncopated rhythms of “Another Roadside Tragedy”, a gem from the unreleased album Meet The Band, highlighted the musical interplay between guitarists Rich Robinson and Marc Ford. The song gave fans the rare sight of watching two differently-styled guitarists mesh effortlessly and raise the song past it's recorded structure and into a musical landscape with limitless possibilities.

The blues-burner "Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye" also displayed Robinson’s subtle fretwork while Marc Ford (known to fans by his true name: Marc Fucking Ford) peeled the paint off the walls of The Joint with his searing lead guitar. But it's during the epic "My Morning Song" that the non-verbal connection between the two guitarists is on full display. A jam breaks down the middle portion of the song and transforms the firey-barnstorming rocker into an ambient exploration of the cosmos, only to slip down a musical wormhole and end up in an all-band gospel-tinged harmonic explosion. A true rock 'n roll experience.

It's musical dynamics like this that separate the Black Crowes from most touring bands today. Where many bands rely on video screens, loops and other tricks, the Crowes hit ya old school with real musical chops and the fearless improv of a jazz band.

As the crowd tried to guess what was next, the band turned a corner and debuted Buck Owens’ “Big in Vegas”, reminding everyone of where tonight's "freak 'n roll" show was being held. At this point, Chris Robinson exited the stage so brother Rich and MFF could send everyone rocketing towards the heavens again by performing Pink Floyd’s "Fearless". It was a fitting cover for the band, as they seem to take any song and make it all their own without hesitation.

Another surprise is the transformation of some songs from the band’s more uneven albums, By Your Side and Lions. Whether it’s the re-addition of Ford’s guitar and/or the band’s collective joy of sharing the stage again, songs like “Virtue and Vice” belong in the band’s musical catalog and not as footnotes highlighting the band's late 90’s disintegration. "Vice's" gospel coda allows the song to drift into the rafters and shower the crowd in good vibes as the band breaks down into an acapella harmony.

Later in the second set, singer Chris Robinson reminded everyone it was time to “take our shoes off and dance” as the band launched into the 3-2-1 boogie of “Downtown Money Waster “, “Share the Ride”, and “Mellow Down Easy”. Keyboardist Ed Hawyrsch truly shined as his fingers danced on the organ and keyboards, keeping all the able bodies in the house feeling the soul and giving Robinson a rich musical pallete to sing from.

Other highlights of the second set included lead singing by Marc Ford on Ron Wood’s “Cancel Everything”, the crowd participation of Joe Cocker’s “Space Captain”, and the entire band’s give-it-their-all performance of “Sometimes Salvation”, a highlight off of The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion album.

If they didn't play another song after "Salvation", I would have been happy to walk out into the casino and empty out my wallet to the dealer, but the band had other plans. Crowd pleasers "Jealous Again" and "Twice As Hard" closed the second set, driving the audiences' voices hoarse as they roared with approval.

After a quick break, the band emerged from backstage to play a fitting encore of Jerry Garcia’s “Deal”, complete with Chris Robinson strumming the guitar. At the song’s conclusion, the entire band, including back up singers Mona Lisa Young and Laura Williams bowed at the front of the stage, arm in arm.

It was a fitting end to an amazing performance by a band that’s back from the depths of Rock 'n Roll Babylon, and has every reason to be back spreading the good gospel of rock ‘n roll to the masses. - Scott Brendel

1 comment:

sexycake said...

i like your writing should become a journalist. Maybe on ur sparetime if nothing else. Well have fun!