Sunday, December 15, 2013

How the Black Crowes got their groove back (Portland concert review)

The Black Crowes are back! For a reunion world tour, anyway.  Last weekend's Portland show marked my 10th time to see my favorite jam band, and my third time to catch them at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Since discovering their captivating, energetic live performances in college, I haven't missed a local Crowes show since 1995.

Readers: Garth's Blog has previously featured the Black Crowes, most notably in my uber popular post, Do the Black Crowes Needtobreathe?  That blog link will seemingly live on as long forever, or at least as long as people continue Googling the Crowes' influence on Christian rock band Third Day.

Taking in the Christmas sights and sounds of downtown Portland, en route to the Black Crowes concert

Fans of the Crowes' most recent Americana/ folk leaning records (like me) were surprised to find that era completely ignored in last weekend's set list. No, this was a return to classic form. The Black Crowes were here to rock 'n' roll.

As seen the video below [Yet another video upload error. Thanks, Blogspot.], singer Chris Robinson was at his hyper, playful, and passionate best.  Chris spun and danced around the stage as his brother Rich laid down rhythm (and occasional lead) guitar licks, backing vocals, and lead vocals on the Velvet Underground's "Oh Sweet Nuthin'." Original drummer Steve Gorman was flawless as always. Sven Pipien and Adam MacDougal were solid on the bass guitar and keys, respectively. And new member Jackie Green soared on the lead guitar while filling out the trademark vocal harmonies.

Every song on the set list was either an extended jam or a punched up, re-energized rendition of a fan favorite.  The band charged out of the gates with rocking versions of "Sting Me" and "Twice is Hard," songs that most bands would save for an energetic finale.  Huge hit "Remedy" was also played early on, as if to remind everyone that the Black Crowes' song catalog is far too vast for a predictable withholding of hits for an encore.  Heck, I've been to previous shows where the Crowes have swapped out some of their biggest hits in favor of jamming away on fan favorite album cuts.

That being said, the night was chocked full of crowd pleasing moments.  Some of the Crowes' best ever jammed-out renditions of "Hi Head Blues," "Ballad in Urgency," and "Wiser Time" (over 15 minutes long!) were punctuated by their more radio friendly selections.  Though the sheer quantity of Greatest Hits-type selections was uncharacteristic for a BC concert, we fans showed nothing but adoration as we danced straight into their final run-up of mega-hits "She Talks to Angels," "Thorn in My Pride," "Soul Singing," "Jealous Again," and a joyous mash-up of Otis Readings' "Hard to Handle"/ Deep Purple's "Hush."

The Crowes encored with a double header of Rolling Stones tunes:  A laid back, countrified cover of "Torn and Frayed" (Blue Mountain's version is one of my all-time favorite covers) and a fun update of "Happy," featuring Jackie Green on the vocals.  Chris Robinson never stopped dancing.  Neither did we.


Notably missing from that evening:  The Crowe's ever-evolving "My Morning Song" jam (a concert highlight, typically clocking in at 10-20 minutes long).  Kathy also lamented that the Crowes' soulful backup singers were M.I.A. on this tour.

And it was a bummer to lose guitarist Luther Dickinson, who ended his stint with the Crowes to return to the North Mississippi Allstars (link to my review of one of the NM Allstars' previous Portland shows).  But there's always a silver lining:

Portland Waterfront Blues Festival: Lena I met Luther Dickinson and his brother Cody backstage this past summer, after the North Mississippi Allstars' electrifying set on the main stage.

Bonus Trivia, Concert Tour Edition-
Question:  Besides Luther, who is the only other musician who has toured with not one but TWO of my five all time favorite live bands?
Answer:  Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, who shared a stage with the Black Crowes throughout a stadium tour featuring all Led Zep songs.  Double wammy!  If only Bono had made an appearance...

Coming up on Garth's Blog...

Surfing, pumpkin patching, and dairy farming!

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