I think I bought the tickets for this show six months ago. Many tickets have arrived and gone since then, but these had safely stayed in my ticket envelope as what would be one of my last shows of the year.
Somehow The Black Crowes have always eluded me. I never quite understand how this happens, for I’ve made a point to go see bands that rank way lower on my list of ‘bands I like and respect but do not love’. Just a time and place thing.
So finally, The Black Crowes decide to do a Fillmore residency- the old school, underutilized residency- and finally, after almost 20 years, I’m able to go.
Unfortunately, the show starts off on a really bad note for me. Dreadful, really. I’m a poster collector, and a quick glance at merch reveals a really nice limited edition poster. So I’m waiting in line for it, telling the manfriend about how last weekend as soon as I got up to the merch table after a show they sold the last poster (though I still managed to get one), someone buys the last one from out in front of us. I swear I have the absolute worst luck lately.
After drowning my sorrow in a drink, I take my position and wait for the show to begin. The stage is an odd set up. There are partitions between each musician, and the back up singers perform behind plexiglass. It ended up being less obstructive to the performance than I thought, but it didn’t really allow for a ton of movement on the stage, but they aren’t that kind of band anyways.
The incense started to flow as the show was about to start. And when I say flow I mean it was I-can’t-believe-this-isn’t-setting-off-the-fire-alarms thick. But it’s only appropriate for stoner/Southern/American rock, right?
The guys come out to a loudly receptive crowd full of a mixed bag of hippies, rockers, and marina types who are ‘branching out’ (if you’re an sf-er, you know what I mean). The band epitomizes an ageless rocker look- and I tell you what- the fact that the camera adds 10 pounds does Chris Robinson good. Dude is skinny.
They start pounding through newer songs, and the crowd instantly mellows out. Well, except for druggie smurf, the most drunk and drugged out person in the crowd, who somehow breaks rank and stands in front of me. At first, I don’t mind….she’s short. But then her furry hood and long blond hair and hands start whipping me in the face as she attempts to dance to the music. I’m thinking that any second she is either going to pass out or throw up on me. Luckily she leaves, but reappears behind me. I’m not sure which was worse. Lucky for her I wasn’t in the hair pulling mood.
Chris Robinson has one of the most interesting voices- instantly recognizable in a line up. I’ve always found it interesting how an element of hoarseness can be so appealing in a singer- like Janis. I bet they could have done an incredible duet. As a lead singer, he definitely delivers an energetic performance, complete with dance moves that kinda make him look like a little kid.
The rest of the musicians all stand on their own- especially the excellent slide guitar work of Luther Dickinson. I was also really happy to see the back up vocalists, even though they were relegated to a holding tank in the rear. I think it would have been better for the overall energy of the performance to have them closer to the front.
About half way through the main set I’m realizing that I need to redefine what a residency means nowadays. It means that the hits will be spread out across all of the nights, amping up the B sides, new material, and cover songs. It’s not exactly the best time to see a band you’ve never seen before. My mind started to wander, and when I refocused, I’d realize that they were still playing the same song since the jam band elements also get amped up during a residency. Similar to when I saw The Smashing Pumpkins last year, I can’t deny that it’s a strong, solid set, but it is definitely more for the hardcore fans and not the casual ones like me.
I was also not entirely happy with how ‘Hard to Handle’ plays out live. I understand that it is hard to deliver that song, but the way that Robinson’s vocals are done makes it almost seem like he’s run out of breath and someone had to take over for him. It just felt a little awkward to me.
A highlight was during the encore, when the drummer came out with a marching band drum that had a picture of Bush on one side, which essentially had a black eye from being beaten by the drumsticks. It was also an interesting contrast to the American flag covering a speaker and the one embroidered on Chris Robinson’s jacket.
It was also great to hear the cover of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking’, though I always think it’s a bit odd to end with a cover song.
And, whaduyaknow, I got a free poster at the end- one of the nicer ones The Fillmore has put out. That made the sting a little better…
Goodbye Daughters Of The Revolution
Under A Mountain
Jam -> Bring On, Bring On
Girl From A Pawnshop
Girl From The North Country
Hard To Handle -> Jam
– encore –
God’s Got It
Can’t You Hear Me Knocking (Rolling Stones cover)
youtube video from Bad2b2
God’s Got It
The Black Crowes performance: 8.5/10
venue (The Fillmore): 9/10
value ($49.50/ticket): 7/10