Any time bands say they are done, or the dreaded “hiatus” word pops up, you have to be skeptical these days. Behind “hiatus” in the rock and roll dictionary you will find: Marketing ploy, drug issues, dipping ticket sales, burnout, infighting, or a combo of all of the above. Who knows why bands do what they do? While the real reason The Black Crowes have decided to stop playing after this tour remains a mystery; it is simply sad and hopefully it will be short lived.
On this night in the heart of Times Square the band showed that it possess more fluidity, ease, grace and raw power then most bands touring today. They are quite obviously at the peak of their creative career, having experienced a rebirth with the injection of Luther Dickinson on guitar back in 2007. Luther was clearly the highlight tonight bringing old favorites, rare covers and soul shakers to majestic peaks with his slide guitar playing. The group’s “Say Goodnight to the Bad Guys” tour has been a critical success, and finds the band breaking up the evening with an acoustic opening set and an electric closing rave up.
To start the group created a comfortable living room feel that permeated the small venue; the Crowes were at ease and the fans were in the proper mindset, or as Chris Robinson noted, “Friday night sure smells better then any other night”. Opening with “Good Friday” the group (complete with soul backup singers and a percussionist) got down to it, settling into some smokey slow harmonica laced acoustic jams. The rarely played “Better When Your Not Alone” allowed the guitars to strum before the band tackled the Rolling Stones‘ “No Expectations” for the first time. The cover was pristine with the lines “I got no expectations/to pass through here again” hitting home.
As the first set progressed the volume and electricity started to rise with the boys plugging in for “Thorn In My Pride”. The track was a winner with its multiple breakdowns and Luther sliding the volume to the heavens. “Jealous Again” got the crowd screaming along and the cheers continued when the big bass drum came out with Steve Gorman pumping away for “Hotel Illness”. The set closer “Wiser Time” featured dueling guitar solos from both Luther and Rich Robinson that tore down the house, now fully electric the crowd was ecstatic for the next set.
A quick break saw the group come back with “(Only) Halfway to Everywhere” in their patented retro 70’s groove, but the second set really skyrocketed towards the cosmos a couple of songs in when the band fired up their cover of Pink Floyd’s “Fearless”. Perhaps not the first band you would think the southern fried rockers would cover, however they did a knock-down-drag-out-job on the tune and the set immediately picked up steam. During “Movin’ on Down the Line” some bass amp issues allowed the layered blues guitar attack to freak-out even longer then normal, while “Title Song” brought smiles to the faces of the hardcore fans. Everyone seemed to go ballistic as the band dove into the holy water with, “Sometimes Salvation” leaving the ears ringing but a whole crowd saved. “Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution” was a breather track to bring the show back down to earth before the funky keyboard breakdowns in “Remedy” ended things with some hip shaking.
The encore brought out two classic rock covers to end an amazing performance, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” paid tribute to the groups southern roots, and the huge influence that The Band has had on the boys in recent years, while “Willin’” ended the night with “Weed Whites and Wine”.
Hopefully the dreaded H word doesn’t last too long for The Black Crowes as they have never been more “on” over their entire career. With progressive albums and electrifying tours, it is a shame they are putting it to bed, here’s wishing also that Luther Dickinson keeps bringing his magic on that day when the Crowes do come back to roost.
Set 1 –Acoustic-
Good Friday , Better When You’re Not Alone, No Expectations , Oh Josephine, Thorn In My Pride, Locust Street, Darling of Underground Press, Drivin’ Wheel, Jealous Again, Hotel Illness, Wiser Time
Set 2 – Electric-
(Only) Halfway To Everywhere, Cosmic Friend, Wee Who See The Deep, Fearless, Movin’ On Down The Line, Title Song, High Head Blues, Sometimes Salvation, Goodbye Daughters Of The Revolution, Remedy
Encore: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Willin’