Wednesday, December 1, 2010

9:30 Club - Washington, D.C. - 11.13 and 11.14.10

The Black Crowes
9:30 Club
Washington, D.C.
November 13, 2010

-acoustic-
Remedy
Under a Mountain
Whoa Mule
Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You
Ballad In Urgency >
Wiser Time
What Is Home
Oh Josephine
Cold Boy Smile
She Talks To Angels                                            
My Morning Song

-electric-           
Feelin' Alright
Blackberry
I Ain't Hiding
Feathers
Downtown Money Waster >
Thorn In My Pride
Fearless
Only Halfway To Everywhere
-encore-
A Train Still Makes A Lonely Sound
Boomer's Story

The 9:30 Club in D.C. has seen some memorable Black Crowes multi-night stands go down in the past with some white hot setlist selections...beginning with a fantastic two-night stand in 2005, to another two-night stand in September 2006 (look at the setlist from that second night!) to three nights in 2008 and onto this two-night mid-November run of 2010.  The most impressive of all, considering the circumstances at the time, may have been those two shows in '06 that also marked the one and only performance of You Got The Silver.  After this tour is over, when you're digging through your live shows and going backwards in Black Crowes time trying to pass the hiatus doldrums as best you can, pull out some Fall '06 shows and get into what was happening with them around that time.  Possibly the most underrated period of the band's career, the fact that they were able to move forward and trudge on in light of having two brand new players on stage with little to no prep time is a feat that few bands and musicians could pull off, let alone do so well.  A little hard to comprehend the magnitude of the accomplishment at the time, but looking back, wow.   You want tone?  See Paul Stacey.

So here in D.C. at the first of this two-nighter, things kicked off with a Remedy to get everyone rolling, and off we went.  After Under a Mountain and Whoa Mule, a little nod to across town Bob was offered with Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You, which has never sounded better.  Ballad In Urgency and a nice mellow jam followed by a twenty-minute Wiser Time took up the next half hour of the evening.  What Is Home followed and was a great choice to put behind the Ballad > Wiser endurance test.  It's one of those moments in a set that always seems to ease you along as you take a nice deep breath and take it all in.  This is another tune to watch Sven on.  Don't get so caught up in what Rich and Luther are doing that you forget to key in on the man from Hanover.  Later in the set, Cold Boy Smile and its sweet intro gave everyone another opportunity to lift off and float away, as we wondered if this one might work melting out of the back end of a Nonfiction jam.  "Sure it would work," said Wilbur, "but it probably won't happen."

Special shout out to the assholes in the crowd tonight...those who pushed, shoved, elbowed and otherwise treated their neighbors with disdain and zero respect.  Well done.  I suppose I could say "You know who you are" but they'll never read this anyway so piss on 'em.  After the show they probably paid for their karma by puking down the front of their Tommy Bahama shirt on the way to their car.   Serves you right.  Usually a Crowes crowd is a pot luck mishmash of hippies, yuppies, squares, long-hairs, short-hairs, shaved heads, frat boys, sorority girls, grandmas, grandpas, bikers, accountants, musicians, drunk assholes, drunk broads, dudes jamming with their eyes closed, tapers, tourists, trippers, stoners and of course good old fashioned normal folks who just want to be left alone so they can get into the music.  Seemed like the asshole meter was pinging past normal readings in D.C. tonight, so let's all tip our caps to the Black Crowes tourists who left a mess in their wake and thank them all for coming out.  Take care, bye bye.

After "freshening up," the electric set began with Feelin' Alright, which is getting more run on this tour than it has since the mid-90s.  That's a good thing.  The Blackberry/I Ain't Hiding combo followed, which usually means Ozone Mama isn't far behind, but tonight Feathers popped up a little unexpectedly instead.  I Ain't Hiding and Feathers has become something of a combo in itself, so when you hear one, there's a better than average chance you may get the other.  You could even go so far as to call it a trend.  Kind of like once upon a time when Black Moon Creeping always seemed to be followed by Sister Luck.  See if you can dig in to Crowesbase and count how many times that occurred.  Only if you get really super bored though with a whole bunch of time to kill and nothing better to do.

Arguably the most interesting and spontaneous moment of the night came during the outro of Downtown Money Waster when things seemed to be about ready to head into Thorn, until Rich lead the band along a little farther down the road, going where he wanted to go and taking everyone along with him.  Here's what went down from BrainDamage's vantage point:

Downtown Money Waster featured what seemed like a completely improvised on the spot jam. Rich's tech was ready to hand him his telecaster for Thorn but Rich turned him down, looked towards the rest of the band and started up another riff. A few minutes in I could clearly see Rich say "now go to C!" directed at Sven and Luther, then "back to G!" when he wanted to return to the main riff.

Once the borders of Thorn were reached, Steve's drum excursion was one of the more mellower ones he's served up, with some delicate accents and subtle articulation going on, backed by Joe slapping on those congas and helping to serve up a two-man combo platter of pleasing percussive phonetic stylings.  When it got to Chris, he went on about the days of the week or something, talking about Saturday night girls and Sunday morning men, which rolled into the let's-pick-it-up-and-fly-away portion of the Thorn jam, taking off properly and setting back down on Earth with a flight time of around twenty minutes before all was said and done.  The 12-string Danelectro came out next, Chris exited stage left and off we went into the Fearless world of Floyd.  A little strange to some to see this one sans Ford, but nice to see it back in the rotation for the second time in a week and the third time this tour.  Not sure Rich got the lyrics exactly right but so what; Ford flubbed lyrics in Blue Floyd regularly.  Hell, Ford forgets the lyrics to his own songs, but that's fodder for another blog and another time.  Coincidentally, this subject is loosely connected to a recent discussion between three longtime Black Crowes fans about the merits of and the message that a teleprompter on stage sends, but in the end I suppose singing the correct words to a song thanks to a little back-up electronic device at your feet is better than forgetting the words and making yourself look bad.  Then again, there is that whole thing about seeing a lead singer look down at his feet before every verse, peeking at the words he's singing...but once again, welcome to 2010.

Closing out the set was Halfway To Everywhere, as you really get to hear Laura's voice as she and Charity trade off on their parts with Chris as the three of them weave around one another on those verses that Garry Shider and Gary "Mudbone" Cooper handled on Three Snakes And One Charm.  Here's a little Q&A with Mudbone that includes the following question sent in by a P-Funk fan who asked him about working with the Crowes on Halfway To Everywhere, even though he got the album wrong...

Q: The cut "Halfway to everywhere" on the Black Crowes "Amorica" album-- How much contribution did you and Garry (Shider) have with the arrangements or was it mostly orchestrated by Chris (Robinson of Black Crowes) and the band?
Mudbone:Yep, the vocal arrangements were mainly arranged by Garry and myself
Q: Was that a good recording experience and any plans on future collaborations?
Mudbone:Yes it was a great recording experience and the future brings many collaborations. With who? We'll see.  
 
Tonight's encore started off with the surprise selection of A Train Still Makes A Lonely Sound, followed by another song about trains, Boomer's Story.  It was a train-themed kind of encore, minus any Drops of Jupiter and without a Johnny Colt appearance.  Now, our math could be off here, but in both songs we counted a total of eight locations mentioned - six of which are domestic and two of which extend beyond continental borders...Met a little gal in Frisco, I been from Maine to Californ'y, from Canada to Mexico, it reminds me of a girl that came from Knoxville town, oh Tennessee you got me runnin', and well I might have seen Moses standing on the the Penn state line.  If you want to get technical you could lump Knoxville and Tennessee into one grouping, but still, seven places in two songs - that's a lot of traveling.  Here's Boomer's Story -



That's it for the first night in D.C.  Let's hit up Ben's Chili Bowl, grub down, rest up and get ready for another one tomorrow...


The Black Crowes
9:30 Club
Washington, D.C.
November 14, 2010

-acoustic-
Soul Singing
Hotel Illness
Welcome to the Goodtimes            
No Expectations
Thorn In My Pride
My Heart's Killing Me
Roll Old Jeremiah
Nonfiction
She
Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution
Jealous Again

-electric-
And The Band Played On
Peace Anyway
Seeing Things
I Just Want To See His Face  
Wiser Time
Hard To Handle
Remedy
My Morning Song
-encore-
Oh Sweet Nuthin'
Willin'

An upbeat beginning courtesy of fired up renditions of both Soul Singing and Hotel Illness to start off tonight with Joe behind the kit, Steve out front pounding on the big bass drum and a talkative lead singer who was clearly in good spirits, all setting a happy tone for night #2 inside the 9:30 Club this evening.  The first of two Stones covers, No Expectations, was an early treat after Goodtimes and hey, don't look now but this set has a nice flow working in its favor already.  After the previous night's Money Waster > Jam > Thorn In My Pride combo, tonight a chilled out stand-alone acoustic Thorn was served up to much approval as a clapping-in-unison crowd was kind enough to supply Rich with a little backbeat during his breakdown.  He never quite got out of third gear, by his own design, and that's more than okay.  Not every Thorn needs to shoot for the stars.  Call this one a reserved Thorn.  The brothers locked in on one another during Chris' harp solo and delivered some sweet lines that seemed to light a little fire under both of them.  Luther's playing on the acoustic Thorn (even though, ahem, he's plugged in) coming out of the jam is a nice change of pace from those aim-for-the-stars solos that come with a full-on electric Thorn jam.  These acoustic lift-offs are more rhythm-based and stick to the groove.  No need to get all pyrotechnical with the solos every single time out.  Let the song do the work.

After a smooth version of My Heart's Killing Me and a couple of jokes, Roll Old Jeremiah handled business as usual, sounding oh so good thanks to some really nice piano from Adam.  This is one of the friendliest and most accessible tracks of the band's latter years, instantly cementing itself among the older songs and holding its own like it's been around for years.  That's called songwriting boys and girls, and yes the brothers can write a song.  Did we mention Adam's piano that was coming out of this one tonight?  Sounded fantastic.  He's not the same player when he gets after those piano sounds as he is on keyboards, naturally, and there's not a damn thing wrong with what he does on the piano.  In comes Luther on the slide and the Roll Old Jeremiah jam was in full swing.  Great playing, in no hurry to get where it knows it's going.  Could have kept it going and melded into Nonfiction but hey, guitars have to be changed, beers have to be sipped and well, so be it.

As good as it was on Roll Old Jeremiah, the piano seemed to be a little too up front on the verses of She.  The natural flow of Grams; recorded version does have that same syncopated piano but it's just a little bit softer and more buried in the mix, not quite as on top of everything as this DC version was.  Still great to hear.  Goodbye Daughters was next, and if you just said to yourself, "You know self, Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution is a really underrated song," you'd be telling yourself the truth. It's a great tune whether it's plugged in and driven hard or sitting down and leaned back on the acoustics.  It kind of has a timeless quality and could probably fit in easily on a few Crowes albums without so much as a hiccup to the flow of anything already in place. 

The electric set began with And The Band Played On, described by RoyHobbes as "the same space-jam at the end that they played in Albany - much better at the start of a set than at the end."   Peace Anyway and Seeing Things followed, and as Hobbes said, "CR soared during Peace Anyway, it's kind of hard to overstate how great his voice is sounding on this tour, and really wowed the crowd on Seeing Things."   Going back to the jam that comes out of And The Band Played On, you can hear Good Friday lurking in the shadows of those chord changes, and with the window wide open for a segue, maybe before the tour is over we'll get one.  The second Stones cover of the night, Just Wanna See His Face, with all of its wonderful ten minutes of dark, smoky, bullet mic glory came next.  We're smitten with this new cover, that's right - smitten.  It's not like anything else they're playing.  The whole package is cash money.  The girls really add an extra layer of sugar to it too with those "ooh ooh ooh's" backing Rich.  You have to give him credit for pulling this one out.  It's been solid every time.  Well played sir.  Well played indeed.

Speaking of well played, here's an amusing anecdote posted on Crowesbase.net by DixieDown for all you lushes out there who stayed good and lubed during the shows at the 9:30 Club -

My cousin is a writer in the DC area. This was her email to me after the shows:

I e-mailed this Washington Post reporter I know who covered music for years and years and years. He's met the Black Crowes and had this to say:


They basically own most if not all of the best bar-sales numbers in the history of the 930 Club. Their fans can really, really, really drink.

Well there you have it...DC and Baltimore area Crowes fans and anyone who drove, flew, bussed, hitch-hiked, ran backwards, hopped a freight train or pogo-sticked in for these shows...pat yourselves on the back.  You've achieved something no fans of any other band can lay claim to.  Yes Black Crowes fans, you are the drinkinest bunch of drinkers and rock n' roll band followers within 200 miles of the Beltway.  Stand up and take a bow.  Just when your momma thought you'd never amount to anything in life.  You showed her.

Heading toward the finish line, the quadruple whammy of Wiser Time, Hard To Handle, Remedy and Morning Song wound things down, which on paper might have been lifted straight out of a Souled Out tour setlist.  That's where the similarities ended though because there were no pimp shirts, no afro wigs or mini-skirts on stage, no supersonic sped up renditions of any songs and Rich and Luther did not meet center stage during Wiser Time to duel.  And even though Wiser clocked in at its customary twenty minutes, it seemed to go on forever tonight.  

As much as we've enjoyed the acoustic re-working of My Morning Song on this tour, when it's plugged in we find ourselves missing that good old fashioned Morning Song build-up more and more every time the tambourines get picked up.  Everyone thinks about an old lover from time to time, don't they?  

Oh Sweet Nuthin' and Willin' closed out the night, which both happen to be tunes written by gentlemen who purposely omitted the letter 'g' in the song title.  Lou Reed even went so far as to throw a 'u' in there instead of the standard 'o' spelling and hey, that's his right because it's his song.  Do what you gotta do Lou.  Speaking of Lou doing what he had to do, check out this clip of Vicious from Paris in 1974 and see if you don't think he did what he had to do backstage before that show.  Whew.  Wear it on your sleeve Lou.  Do your thing.  

Here's Oh Sweet Nuthin' below...  Bye Bye DC.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Higher Ground - Burlington, VT - 10.19 and 10.20.10

The Black Crowes
Higher Ground
South Burlington, Vermont
October 19, 2010


- acoustic -
COLD BOY SMILE
JEALOUS AGAIN
BALLAD IN URGENCY >
WISER TIME
ROCKIN' CHAIR
WHOA MULE
NONFICTION > JAM
WYOMING AND ME
MY MORNING SONG
REMEDY

- electric -
MOVE IT ON DOWN THE LINE
SHADY GROVE
HOW MUCH FOR YOUR WINGS >
BRING ON BRING ON
LET IT BE GONE
THORN IN MY PRIDE > JAM
APPALOOSA
POOR ELIJAH - TRIBUTE TO JOHNSON 
TWICE AS HARD
- encore -
WILLIN’


Vermont in the fall.  Europeans riding on tour buses all over the place, people on weekend getaways driving around enjoying the foliage changing colors and others simply in search of a big giant stack of pancakes covered in good old fashioned pure Vermont maple syrup.  Did you know that it takes 40 gallons of sap from a maple tree to make one gallon of syrup?  And that Vermont produces 920,000 gallons of sap each year, more than twice as much as the next largest state (Maine)?  That's a lot of sap.  Something about the climate in Vermont...and even though it takes 30-50 years for a tree to grow to the height necessary to produce enough sap, Vermont is the gold standard for syrup in the US.  Here's a video of a local family showing you the process they go through to produce maple syrup that might be of interest while making you a little hungry for a plate of warm waffles and a cup of spiked hot chocolate.

There's an area north of here called Smuggler's Notch, up in Jeffersonville, named as such because back in the Napoleonic Wars when trade between Canada and the US was outlawed, everything from livestock to slaves were smuggled through the Green Mountains pass.  The locals call it Smuggs.  That's your history portion of this review, which is loosely tied in to a little Black Crowes history if you want to point out that you could have done a lot of smuggling between this show and the last time The Band's Rockin' Chair found its way into a setlist (two years).  Been too long.


Here's a short write-up of the two-night Higher Ground stand from a blog called The Big Takeover and below, we share another mini-review borrowed from RoyHobbes as he continues to detail his recent run of east coast shows...

Maybe the best acoustic set I've seen to date. Whoa Mule is one of my absolute favorites of the new era, and any set with Wyoming and Me has a lot going for it.

The electric set opened nicely with a couple of newer tunes on different ends of the psychedelic spectrum, and then kicked into full-on ear-fuck mode with the Three Snakes combo of Wings > Bring On. The segue jam neatly settles between the theme of the traditional Wings outrĂ© and slowly morphs into the traditional Bring On jam. They're playing this combo a lot but this is the only electric version I got - pretty stunning. If I'm not mistaken, both guitarists were playing strats here. 

Great set from there on out, Poor Elijah is always a treat and Luther takes a pretty epic solo the first time around now. Good to see them get through Twice As Hard without an onstage assault. Willin' is always a treat, especially as the closer. Overall a nice show, several repeats from my previous show in Albany but enough across the spectrum to really like. I really regretted not being able to hit the second night of the Burlington double-header, but that regret was short-lived.

Cool story from vtcrowe posted on amorica2.net -

Took my 12 year old son to the show.  His first.  We parked it right in front of Luther for the acoustic set.  Before the show Luther's guitar tech (cannot remember his name) handed Jake a set of earplugs (being a good dad I had brought some for him anyway!).  Also, during Wiser Time, right after LD's slide solo, he handed his slide to my son.  He was pretty pumped.  Totally cool, and very gracious on both counts. Thanks to Luther and un-named guitar guy for treating my son well.  It was a great experience for his first concert.

And another solid comment from vtcrowe here below, apparently one of the more sane and thoughtful people posting on amorica2.net...

Steve recently said that they aren't interested in re-creating the past.  Quoted from WWWS:

"No, the Black Crowes aren’t going to rock and roll like we used to.

We’re going to rock and roll like we do now.

We aren’t here to recreate the past.

We are in the present.

When you saw the band and liked it before, we were very much in the present then, too.

I would have guessed that a man with (obviously) such keen insight and perspective might have figured that out.

Dig it or don’t – it’s your choice.  Kinda cool how that works."

Once you accept that, it's very liberating.  Luther is playing his balls off.  Adam too.  Give the guys some credit. The band is changing/evolving, just like it ALWAYS has. 

I would not miss these guys. Who knows when or if they will be back. Oh, and they are white hot right now.

 
Well said.  On to the next night...

The Black Crowes
Higher Ground
South Burlington, Vermont
October 20, 2010

- acoustic -
SOUL SINGING
GOOD FRIDAY
HOTEL ILLNESS
LAST PLACE THAT LOVE LIVES
TONIGHT I’LL BE STAYING HERE WITH YOU
SISTER LUCK
THORN IN MY PRIDE > JAM
WHAT IS HOME
WELCOME TO THE GOODTIMES              
DOWNTOWN MONEY WASTER
SHE TALKS TO ANGELS                       

- electric -
WAITING GUILTY ->
ANOTHER ROADSIDE TRAGEDY
WISER TIME
GREENHORN
HIGH HEAD BLUES
EVERGREEN
SOMETIMES SALVATION
REMEDY
WOUNDED BIRD
- encore -
OH SWEET NUTHIN'
THICK N THIN

During the mini-run of Mr. Crowe's Garden warm-up gigs in March of '05, the band made their first-ever stop in Vermont for a show at the new Higher Ground in South Burlington.  Besides the one and only performance of Derek and the Dominoes' Tell The Truth, the show also marked the debut cross-pollination of Phish and The Black Crowes as Trey Anastasio came out for an encore of Yer Blues and Hard To Handle.  Nine months later they would share the stage again at Madison Square Garden for a memorable New Year's Eve show thanks to My Morning Jacket bailing on the gig and Trey's solo band being added as a last minute replacement. 

No members of Phish showed up to jam during this two-night run at Higher Ground because they were playing shows in Augusta, Maine and Utica, New York each night and couldn't be in two places at once.  Some Black Crowes fans may have considered that a blessing.  Needless to say, the shows went off just fine on their own.  Somebody was hoping for a Moonlight In Vermont debut in the acoustic set but that was a long shot by anyone's standards, so easing that blow was a fun Hotel Illness followed by a really nice Last Place That Love Lives with Luther's mandolin coming in after that first verse, reminding us of sitting in Levon's barn and hearing it for the first time with assistance from Larry Campbell.  You could make a case that this song is kind of a distant cousin to Cursed Diamond only in the sense that both have a first verse that's followed by a sweet reward as each song fully kicks in after a quiet opening. 

Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You, propelled by Chris' singing and Luther's lap steel, was another early treat.  Something about the way a steel guitar can whisper and sneak in that's just relaxing and right.  More Dylan, more Gram, more country covers...whatever it takes to get that thing on Luther's lap and out on the stage more often, please.  Excuse us while we pontificate and daydream about the possibility of a countrified version of Darling of the Underground Press with Luther on the lap steel driving things along...man does it sound good in our head right now. 

The thing we're digging so much about these acoustic sets are the little subtleties, the nuances and understated bits here and there that each player on stage is adding as everyone is really listening to one another instead of playing over one another.  There's no hesitation going on here, which isn't something you could always say for everyone's beloved 2005 lineup.  Even if the notes aren't always spot on perfect with what your Ford and Harsch-conditioned ears are looking for, the approach is unadulterated. 

During the Thorn jam, Adam pulled Chris into a little call and response on the harp and keys for a couple of bars.  More of that please.  Luther's solo coming out of the jam made you wonder where is he going with this but then some of his runs made you concede and think well shit, alright then.  So cool to see and hear him trying new things constantly on songs he's playing on a nightly basis...just jumping off the roof, spreading his wings and navigating his way through the air.  That's why it's hard to bag on the guy and pick apart every little thing he does, because at the end of the night you should realize you're seeing a guy take his parts to new places as often as he can at literally every single show, and even though his take on the solo in Black Moon or Remedy will never sound the same as Ford's, it's hard not to appreciate what Luther's doing in this band.  If you're not getting it, if you're still hung up on Ford, that's understandable.  It's also unfortunate.

Speaking of people who have played guitar in The Black Crowes, here's an informative and entertaining discussion by some gearheads on a Telecaster messageboard talking about effects, pedals and guitar tone among Robinson, Ford and Dickinson.  The first post was on July 12, 2006 and the last post was on July 12, 2010, oddly enough.

Waiting Guilty to kick off the electric set was a beautiful way to open things up although it did not meld into Roadside Tragedy as indicated on Crowesbase.  The first Waiting Guilty since Tulsa, this song will always remind me of finding a 45 record with Hard To Handle on one side and Waiting Guilty on the other while fishing through the racks at one of my favorite old school record shops back in the day.  It was just around the time I'd started to really get into the band and was beginning to seek out b-sides and live recordings, back when everyone traded live tapes through the mail.  When I saw the words "Waiting Guilty" on the backside, I knew I'd found something I hadn't heard before.  What a great feeling.  Here it was, the summer of '92, when I'm still knee deep in Southern Harmony and I find out there's more Shake Your Money Maker material I had yet to hear.  Good times.  The valley of discovery. 


Another Roadside Tragedy from this show...damn.  The mid-section here, driven by Steve, Joe and Adam, peeled the paint off the walls.  And just then...here's Sven like the Creature From The Black Lagoon coming up from the bottom.  Just laying it down.  What a jam.  And then - BAM.  It slams up a few keys right into something else with Rich sliding all over the place, goes on for a few minutes and then evaporates into Wiser Time.  Fantastic transition and a nice breather from another Ballad > Wiser segue.  Absolutely killer bass line from Sven during Rich's solo.  It's so easy to overlook what he's doing during Wiser Time but don't sleep on it next time you're standing there.  Watch him.  The best part of this song live, for me, is from the moment Rich begins his solo up until the moment they slam back into the chorus.  It really does have a Thorn In My Pride circa-High As The Moon quality to it, in that Rich decides where it goes and everyone else follows as it goes someplace new each night. 


Following the 30+ minute journey of Waiting Guilty, Roadside and Wiser Time was a damn near 10-minute Greenhorn with a good dose of Luther on the back end jam, followed by High Head Blues and a once familiar Evergreen that's not getting much run and may not get played again on this tour.  By the way, Greenhorn can get really trippy in spots if you're not careful.  Parts of that song will get you.  And for some reason, the Remedy that followed Sometimes Salvation took us back to the 1992 MTV Music Awards when Chris sang to the sisters grooving in the front row, "You bet your ass I'd take enough to please me."  Not sure why memories like that pop up out of nowhere, but if we don't drag out this clip of Tabitha Soren interviewing Chris in his pot leaf pants, when will we ever?  Wait for it at the 50 second mark.


Wounded Bird followed by an encore of Oh Sweet Nuthin and Thick n' Thin under the chandeliers and high ceilings inside Higher Ground capped off the evening and the two-night stand in South Burlington as the band heads south to Boston and the House of Blues.  Don't blink, don't look away and don't leave for the 8th dimension with Buckaroo Bonzai because the shows continue to dwindle away before our eyes...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

House of Blues - Boston, Mass - 10.22 and 10.23.10

The Black Crowes
House of Blues
Boston, Massachusetts
October 22, 2010                                                    - electric -
                                                                               Exit
- acoustic -                                                           P.25 London   
Jealous Again                                                      Jam > Black Moon Creeping 
Hotel Illness                                                         Ballad In Urgency >
Torn & Frayed                                                     Wiser Time
My Hearts Killing Me                                            Song of Love 
Downtown Money Waster                                 Oh Josephine
Thorn In My Pride                                               Hard To Handle
Girl From A Pawnshop                                        Remedy
Wee Who See The Deep                                   - encore -

Time Will Tell                                                       She Talks To Angels
My Morning Song                                                Hey Grandma
                                                                           

As we jump way ahead to this show we'd like to take a second to remind everyone that at the end of the day, nothing else matters but the music.  Sometimes for some people, appreciating how good something the band does takes three, four, five...sometimes twelve or a hundred listens to fully appreciate.  Three Snakes' learning curve, or appreciation curve, was longer than normal for some people.  You could say the same thing for Warpaint to a degree.  And someday, Before The Frost...Until The Freeze will be recognized as the true feat that it is.  Some Black Crowes fans are too close to the forest to see the trees.  This Boston show though...well, when you have a group of musicians that are playing the way this one is, your appreciation curve for a night like this is short, if not nonexistent. 

This band sounds really, really good right now.

Don't waste your time or anyone else's breaking down setlists anymore.  You're not going to get your mind blown with b-sides, unreleased gems and first time played covers every night.  We all want madness at every show we go to.  This show is so good though that no critique searching for moments to nitpick could possibly be taken seriously.  And you can differentiate the two kinds of Black Crowes fans we have now by reading people's opinions about these shows:  There are Crowes fans who are riding the train, looking out the window at this precious time passing by and appreciating every single mile along the way...and then there are the ones who refuse to get on board but still loiter around to tell everyone how unhappy they are.  We'd refer them to the second half of the first verse of Sting Me, but if they haven't gotten it by now they never will.  Happy trails folks.  Too bad for you.

Tonight in Boston, the jam in Thorn In My Pride was floating on some kind of extra push from underneath somewhere.  Have you heard this thing yet?  You need to.  Seriously.  What a fantastic audience recording captured by John Sousa and Ben Hardy.  In fact, you need to stop reading this right now, download the show, put on Thorn In My Pride and turn it up.  Listen to that reserved, completely-in-control playing.  What's that you say?  You don't know how to download torrents?  That's ok, call a friend who has it, have them play it over the phone for you and read this later.  Once you hear it, you'll know what I'm talking about.  This is one of the best acoustic Thorn In My Pride jams you'll ever heard this band do.  Even Mia Wallace said "GOD DAMN."  

To quote another movie character, Lloyd Christmas...


And by "there" we mean, on shows like this, this band is there.  The acoustic sets have become much more special than they were earlier in the tour.  They've evolved into a musical menagerie of mellowed out mayhem.  The playing going down during these sets and the sounds this band is making right now are beyond reproach.  Plain and simple.  Even if it took the "fucking Chatty Cathy types" a wake up call to get into it tonight before My Heart's Killing Me, by the time Thorn In My Pride came along they were all in.  Then with Chris feeling it on Wee Who See The Deep, and to get Time Will Tell mixed in...man is it going to be a shame for those folks out there who, sometime around the middle of 2011, will finally appreciate how truly good this is right now.  These are special times, and as Steve says, the only thing that matters right now is being in the present.  

Here's RoyHobbes, in a post borrowed from blackcrowes.net, and his thoughts on the evening...

Was great to hear Money Waster, great song to hear acoustic w/ more of the electric tempo. In general I like the acoustic renderings of a lot of the songs, and Luther really smokes on this one. If I'm not mistaken, I believe Luther pulled out the pedal steel for Pawnshop, which was pretty wicked. I really appreciate how he seems so motivated to find new ways to add to the band's sound, and his pedal steel chops have become pretty impressive since his tenure in the band began. Between his mandolin and pedal steel, Luther is an asset to this band in ways far beyond the guitar fretboard. Wee Who See The Deep was also a highlight, loved the acoustic version they played at Town Hall in 2008 and the current rendering is right on point with that. Great to get Time Will Tell, my personal Southern Harmony scavenger hunt is finished! Pretty simple, peppy arrangement, maybe felt similar to their latter-day reading of Bend Down Low.

The second set brought a lot of nastiness. Exit was a welcome epiphany and seemed to be a particularly big hit on taper's row. It's a little groovier and less edgy than its 1995-era predecessor, but still nice and intense - hopefully they'll keep pulling it out as the current era draws to a close. Hey Grandma seems to have gotten some minor revamping and sounds a lot more shuffle-y now, definitely a rocking closer. CR sort of apologized to the crowd for his lecture when he came out for the encore. Warm fuzzies all around.

A few more thoughts...

Speaking of Exit, loved Luther busting out the wah wah on the outro.  More please.  Also noteworthy was the rare and now pleasant treat of the occasional P.25 London that gets off the couch and takes a lap around the track every once in a while, as in no more than 3 or 4 times a year, tops.  The opening of Black Moon coming in off the jam was nice, taken forward with Joe's tambourine shaking at just the right leaned back measure, creating a killer pocket.  The two-chord jam out of Ballad In Urgency just kept it coming.  So good.  Then Luther on Wiser Time.  More of the same.  A shorter, bouncier Song of Love was cool, with everyone holding back and really listening to one another.  And Hey Grandma will always give us a 2008 vibe every time we hear it, as it reminds us of when this band was exploring itself, finding its new sea legs and figuring out what was what.

Now we move on to night number two in Boston...

The Black Crowes
House Of Blues 
Boston, Massachusetts 
October 23, 2010

-acoustic-
Soul Singing
Remedy
Garden Gate
Whoa Mule
What Is Home
How Much For Your Wings >
Bring On Bring On                              
Roll Old Jeremiah > Jam
Thunderstorm 6:54pm
Good Friday
Nonfiction > Jam

-electric set-
Feelin' Alright
Blackberry 

Ozone Mama
I Ain't Hiding
Title Song
Thorn In My Pride > Drums > Jam
Isn't It About Time
A Conspiracy
Twice As Hard
-encore-
I Don't Know Why
Boomer's Story

Once again we'll borrow the thoughts of RoyHobbes as he sets the stage for this one...

Show was an hour earlier on this night and I think that faked a lot of people out, because things weren't really filling in until a good 40 minutes into the first set. The new-era triplet of Garden Gate - Whoa Mule - What Is Home packed a lot of punch in the acoustic set, especially with Luther's melodic slide heroics on the latter two. What Is Home is just a killer song, I was surprised not to get sick of it despite the number of times they played it over the course of my run. Wings is definitely not as impressive acoustically as it is electric, but the jam is still a whopper, and Bring On was especially fiery on this night. The crowd-at-large didn't seem to appreciate Thunderstorm with its unexpected starts and stops, but I did!

Nice funky opening to the electric proceedings. I took the opportunity to get some beers during Ozone Mama, but returned in time to catch the final couple minutes of Luther absolutely melting faces on the outro, and almost wished I had stuck around for the whole thing. Almost. I Ain't Hiding was a huuuuuge hit with the crowd, and really has become a barnburner. If you hate this song, you seem to be in the minority. Title Song and Thorn were a nice one-two, both have seldom sounded better. Vintage CR screaming on Conspiracy.

Like Willin, Boomer's is a "10" closer. Great pair of shows in Boston, this is undoubtedly the tightest-knit the band has been at any point since the reunion, and both Luther and Adam have come a long way since the advent of the new lineup. Can't get enough at this point, especially if they're going to pull out sets like the last two.

To piggyback Hobbes' thoughts on I Ain't Hiding, the middle section of that thing flat smokes.  Plus it's another one of those spots in the set when you get to watch Rich go off.  We prefer this one in the middle of a set as opposed to seeing it pop up on the encore...but next time it does appear in an encore keep an eye out for it to be preceded by its traveling partner of late, Feathers, which we thought was one of the all-time strangest pairings of songs ever for an encore, until it happened a second time.  Fool me once, shame on...no wait...shame on...you fool me, can't get fooled again.  Something like that.

Other noteworthy moments that bear mentioning include the stellar ride that came out of Roll Old Jeremiah and then made its way down the tracks for about ten minutes with ease.  That's just plain ol' good music right there.  No other way to slice it.  Where's my rocking chair?  Great sounds coming from Luther on the What Is Home back end too...starting to sound like a broken record complimenting him all the time.  His wheelhouse in this band is huge on songs like this.  Just nailing it.  And Ozone Mama...what to say...well, there is something there.  Certain moments of Ozone Mama really do work.  The melody in the chorus is money.  It's all those "y'alls" that are afflicted with that damn Lickin' virus though, a nasty bug that attacks certain parts of a song, leaving them waylaid while ignoring other sections that remain as healthy and strong as Jack Jack Parr.  Great encore here tonight too...I don't know why I Don't Know Why always sounds good, but it does, and Boomer's Story is never a bad way to end a show.  There aren't many covers the band has been playing longer than Boomer's.  Even though it's been put on the shelf at times over the years, it's been part of the catalog since way back when.

In the Excuse Us For Mentioning It Late category...the Boston shows came one week in to Laura Williams' new gig singing and looking good in place of her mother, Mona Lisa Young.  Laura's first gig was in Albany on October 15th.  She also filled in for Charity in 2005.  Everybody loves Mona and hopes to see her again.  And while a lot of Crowes fans know how long Mona's list of album credits are and all the big names she's performed with, there's one album she sang on that you may have overlooked which we'd like to take this opportunity to re-introduce you to.  When you're searching for that perfect stocking stuffer for the one you love this Christmas, head straight for the bin marked "50 cents" at your local record shop and you might just find it there waiting for you.  Probably more popular with the ladies than the fellas.  In any case, best wishes and a big thank you to Mona for all that she's brought to the shows and the sound and the fun we've all had over these past six years.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mud Island Amphitheater - Memphis, Tennessee - 9.30.10

The Black Crowes
Mud Island Amphitheater
Memphis, Tennessee
September 30, 2010

- acoustic -
Soul Singing
Hotel Illness
Thorn In My Pride
Garden Gate
Jealous Again
You Don't Miss Your Water
How Much For Your Wings >
Bring On Bring On                            
Ballad In Urgency >
Wiser Time
She Talks To Angels

- electric -
Blackberry
I Ain't Hiding
High Head Blues
Hard To Handle
Feathers
My Morning Song
Oh Josephine
Sting Me
Remedy
Been a Long Time (Waiting On Love)
- encore -
Oh Sweet Nuthin'
Boomer's Story

Writing about a band is kind of strange.  If you're an employed writer or critic of music who works for a paper, typically you're covering the revolving door of touring bands that roll through whatever town you live in.  If you write for a nationally published magazine, you probably review albums, the occasional live show and other various and miscellaneous music related news.  Each article, each column, each piece, becomes something new each time you write because the subject matter you're writing about is always changing.  But we – er, me – I'm not getting paid to write anything here.  I'm just some guy sitting in front of a keyboard typing...about the same band...over and over and over.  After a while, it all starts to feel repetitive and over-analytical.  The whole reason most people get into music or any artist or band in the first place is because you are a receptor, and you were moved by something.  A sound, a beat, a lyric, a song, the time, place and moment one comes along...all of those things are part of your absorption and intake of something and how it makes you feel.  Taken in that vein, it's pure and unfiltered.  But when you start dissecting it, studying it and picking it apart, you sodomize it to a point of reduction that defeats whatever it was that took you away in the first place. That's kind of what writing this blog does at times to its writer's perception of this band and the music.

In some sense, at times you almost start to feel like a creep for paying this much attention to someone.  When you're younger, you tend to put people you admire on a pedestal, some higher than others.  If you continue to do that as you age, you at least hope with each passing year of your life comes a growth in perspective.  We're all human beings, whether we make music or write about people who do.  As individuals, we're all doing our own thing each day - and when your thing becomes talking repeatedly about how somebody else does their thing, you start being something else: an inspector.  There might even be a loss of dignity issue in play here as well.  It's interesting what the blog has done to our view of things.

Having said all that, the evening in Memphis began with the band walking out on stage and the curious sight of Rich and Luther both headed away from their customary positions as they took up residence on opposite sides from where they normally play.  Luther on the right, Rich on the left.  In 20 years of band history, Rich has always stood to Chris' left.  Cease, Ford, Freed, Stacey and Luther...they've all been in the same place every night.  Until now.  Okay, there have been a handful of odd placements and positionings in certain situations before; one that comes to mind is the studio session from Holland '96, but that wasn't a gig in front of people; it was filmed for a Dutch tv show.  And sure, weirdness was abound in several varieties during A Night In The Life Of A Corkscrew and there was some unconventional band positioning that night but nobody should compare anything resembling reality to the things that went down on that occasion.  As far as we know, Memphis 2010 was a first.  The question on everyone's mind then is, why?  Why switch?  To once again quote the best damn cooler in the business, "Opinions vary."

Edit:  We've edited this blog entry from its original version because after further reflection we decided that we're not as into talking about non-music related shit as we thought we were.  Apologies.

Other than that, what to take away from Memphis...how about the nice weather?  Or that it's a special place for Luther, and only a half hour north of Hernando - you can check a map if you think we're lying.   Luther was laying it down tonight.  Great playing on Morning Song, some nasty leads on a nice sludgy version of Been A Long Time and the Hey Jude tease inside Oh Sweet Nuthin were all memorable moments. 

And now to clear up a few misconceptions...

No, we're not on the bus riding along from town to town with the band, we're not hanging out with Sven or Joe on their off days and no we're not a member of the crew.  We just go to as many shows as possible and have chosen to write about this one tour.  This one "last" tour. We don't know a damn thing about what's going on inside their four walls, what's going down behind the stage curtain or what the story is under the tour bus hood.  And even if we did, we probably wouldn't be cool airing shit like that for the world to read about; there's a respect here for these guys as people that we don't feel comfortable compressing anymore than we already do by picking apart solos and song tempos.  Depending on which Black Crowes messageboard you read though, you'll find varying degrees of people who have no problem chucking that respect out the window.  So goes the internet.  Still, as noble and gentlemanly as this blog writer fancies his intentions, there's a really, really good chance Chris, Rich or Steve would read this and say "Fuck you and your stupid blog.  You're an idiot."  And they'd probably be right.


Put a bow on it and call it a day.  Memphis 2010:  Interesting Night.