Story and Photos by Phil BonyataIn years past when the Black Crowes played bartender, they served up flaming shots of whiskey soaked Southern fried rock 'n roll. The next drink was always on the house.
Something happened to the Robinson brothers on their way out of family counseling. Their new music is bland. The brothers clearly made better music when they were feuding and that friction helped to fuel their creative juices. Today's apparent brotherly love might be a big part of why the band has fallen into mediocrity and probable obscurity.
The Crowes, who are fading fast commercially, none the less charged into the waiting arms of the thirty-something second generation hippies in attendance at the Eagles Ballroom on Saturday night. Lead singer Chris Robinson, clad in a drab T-shirt, bell-bottom jeans and a scruffy beard, slid his bare feet into the cushy white shag rug on stage as he and the band cut loose with "Midnight from the Inside Out." The crunchy rhythms were quickly replaced with a lava lamp heaviness. Other newer numbers like "Cursed Diamond," "By Your Side" and "Wiser Time" went lifeless and meandering.
A lot of the bands' newer material has lost it's trademark kick-you-in-the-head sound. The quintet from Atlanta, whose creative hooks, catchy melodies and lyrics and the Stonesy guitar rhythms of their first two albums Shake Your Money Maker and The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion had made them superstars in the early '90s. After their third album was a comparative commercial bust the band decided to change course and follow some of the musical stylings of the Dead and Phish. Bad mistake. While both the Grateful Dead and Phish might seem pretty boring to the uninitiated, the veteran ear (and heart) can spot the subtle chord changes and repetitive bass lines that lay the foundation for each bands natural and earthy lyrics. The Crowes new music is really Deadhead lite. A weak imitation lacking the core soul.
What this band can do with panache and heart is imitate the Stones circa 1972. Finally on "Remedy" and "Sting Me" guitarist Rich Robinson cut the chords and lit the flames under the fans butts. They happily blasted their chewy licks like soldiers returning home from a long war. The energy ebbed and flowed for other classics like the electric spiciness of "Jealous Again" and the blues flirts withs rock's convicted felon "Sometimes Salvation." On "Lucifer Sam" Chris danced and preened like a peacock who couldn't quite get his feathers fanned out completely.
It seems the Black Crowes have lost interest in what they do best and in turn have lost interest in themselves.
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