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 -

- electric -
- encore -

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 -

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

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 -
SHE TALKS TO ANGELS                       

- electric -
- encore -

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 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'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 -
- 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 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, 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

Soul Singing
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

Ozone Mama
I Ain't Hiding
Title Song
Thorn In My Pride > Drums > Jam
Isn't It About Time
A Conspiracy
Twice As Hard
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 wait...shame 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 -
I Ain't Hiding
High Head Blues
Hard To Handle
My Morning Song
Oh Josephine
Sting Me
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 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.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Stubb's - Austin, Texas - 9.25.10

The Black Crowes
Waller Creek Amphitheater at Stubb's
Austin, Texas
September 25, 2010

Feelin' Alright
Hard To Handle
Go Tell The Congregation
Only A Fool
Show Me
Seeing Things
Isn't It About Time
Ballad In Urgency >   
Wiser Time
My Morning Song
Soul Singing
Thorn In My Pride
You're So Rude #
Glad & Sorry #
Poor Elijah (Tribute To Johnson) #%

# with Ian McLagan
% with Gordie Johnson

We suppose the big news here is that Ian McLagan of the Faces sat in tonight, and that's probably what most people will think of when down the road everyone looks back on this show.   But check out the setlist.  Look at the first seven songs.  That's pretty much a pot luck grab bag of unpredictability with two covers out of the gate, two from By Your Side, another cover, Seeing Things and then another cover.  There really wasn't anything conventional about the way it got started tonight.  When was the last time the first seven songs in a one set show had four or more covers mixed in?  Vegas '96?   Was this another "forty years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanoes, dead rising from the grave, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together...mass hysteria" type of show?  It was kind of headed that way. 

"This is nice."
Show Me was jammed out, Seeing Things felt good and was really elevated by Adam's playing.  Isn't It About Time, in one little spot, had a quick slide lick that was a ringer for Kicking My Heart Around.  So here were all are, bound for Looneyville.   It was about to get crazy on ludicrous and insane.  Where are we, the Fillmore? 

Before we move forward, two random things -

#1 - Hard To Handle in the two slot always reminds us of this night...


#2 - Here's Stephen Stills playing Isn't It About Time in New York in 2007

Back to the show, which Charles Dickens wrote a book about called A Tale of Two Halves....

With Thorn In My Pride tonight clocking in around its usual 22-23 minutes, we wonder if more juice could've been squeezed out with two or three tight tunes toward the end of the show instead of one long jam, but that would go against our rule of playing the What If Game; which twists you up.  Needless to say, the encore to come was certainly something special, if not long overdue, as Ian McLagan was about to sit in...and even though you may know him best from his role in the Faces, over the years he's also played and toured with everyone from Bonnie Raitt to Bob Dylan to the Everly Brothers to Chuck Berry to Joe Cocker to some band called the Rolling Stones.  The man has credentials.

Anybody out there who follows Steve on the Twitter might have had an inclination something was afoot earlier in the day when Steve tweeted, "having a blast at soundcheck. You should see our faces."  Not many people knew it but Mac was already in the house.  How much fun would it have been to have been a fly on the wall at that soundcheck?  You know it was at least seventeen times cooler than the show itself.  The band had only played You're So Rude live once before, with Marc on vocals, and it that was as sloppy as a smashed handful of honey-dipped Twinkies.  This time, Mac took the mic.  He was having a blast and so was the band.  "Hey look, there's The Black Crowes jamming with Ian McLagan singing and playing keyboards." 

You're So Rude was followed by Glad and Sorry, a song originally recorded during the Ooh La La sessions of late '72 and early '73 and sung by its composers Ronnie Lane and Ronnie Wood.  Tonight, Mac sang it with Rich, and man did it sound good.  Rich may have been the happiest guy on stage.  

Sidenote:  Remember that list of Black Crowes Top 50 Covers we were threatening to put together some day?  Glad and Sorry is a lock for the top 20 when and if we ever get around to putting that thing together.  

To round out the night, Grady himself, Mr. Gordie Johnson, joined everyone on stage for a Poor Elijah that went properly off the reservation and drove past the weigh station around the ten-minute mark before returning to port.  With Adam and Mac playing side by side, Chris strumming the acoustic, Gordie and Rich playing off one another, Steve holding it down and everyone else just grinning happily along for the ride, these are the moments you time capsule.  A special night. 

Chris and Mac may cross paths again in 2011 if things work out to partake in some of the Faces reunion gigs that are planned to go down.  Mac was asked about it during a radio interview back in April and mentioned there's interest on both sides.  Mick Hucknall, he of Simply Red, has already been pegged to fill the rather large shoes of an apparently disinterested Rod Stewart - and if you've seen any of the clips of Hucknall playing with them recently you already know he can hold his own.  Not quite as exciting as imagining Rod up there, or Chris for that matter, with Kenney, Ronnie and Mac giving Stay With Me, Three Button Hand Me Down or (I Know) I'm Losing You a go, but one could argue it's better than no Faces at all.  We'll see what happens.

Speaking of Faces reunions, we've seen attempts in the past to get something together beyond a one off, like Wembley Stadium in 1986 to help raise money for MS research that also happened to be the last time Ronnie Lane performed on stage, but no official Faces reunion tour plans have ever been nailed down until recently.  If only Rod were on board.  He'll inevitably show up at one of the gigs somewhere, you know he will, and everyone will wonder why he couldn't get it together to just jump on board in the first place.  It'd be a shame it it only happens once, and if so the only question(s) then would be when and where and will you be lucky enough to be there when it does.  A lot of pontification as to whether or not his pipes are up to pulling off some of the tunes but something tells us one way or another they'd make it work.  Even if it has to be unplugged, we'd take it.  And nobody ever accused that band of being tight anyway, so screw it.  Just play.  Of course we'd all like to see Rod and Chris both up there together at least once in our lifetime, so hopefully arrangements, egos, schedules and luck can all work together in harmony to make it happen.  We're not holding our breath but we'll always hold out hope.

For now, all we can give you is this thing below from 1970.

Before we get outta here, be sure the next time you're in the car and hear Miss You on the radio (if you still listen to FM radio, that is), remember that's Ian McLagan you're hearing on the Wurlitzer electric piano.  Speaking of Miss You, have you ever heard the 12" mix?  If not, check it out here.  Listen to Bill Wyman's bass drive that thing.  So much better than the album version.  

Next time you're in Austin you might want to drop by the Lucky Lounge on West 5th on a Thursday for a happy hour matinee as Ian and the Bump Band are semi-regulars there and may be playing.  Check his website.  Believe it or not, there's no cover.  Just walk in, grab a beer and enjoy the band.  How cool is that?  One last thing...Mac's got a biography available called All The Rage, which we've yet to read but have on our list of books to snag.  We suspect it to be brimming with gobs of glorious tales from his adventures over the years, with one reviewer describing it as containing...
"hilarious anecdotes about Steve Mariott and his way of working the phrase "Fuck off" into interviews with foreign journalists and TV presenters, Keith Richards walking around during a rehearsal with a hypodermic needle stuck in his bum, as well as some chilling passages about Keith Moon's campaign of terror against McLagan and his soul mate, Moonie's ex-wife Kim." 

Buy a copy through his website here.

And don't forget...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Verizon Wireless Theater - Houston, Texas - 9.24.10

The Black Crowes
Verizon Wireless Theater
Houston, Texas
September 24, 2010

- acoustic -
Soul Singing
Hotel Illness
Under A Mountain                           
Good Friday
What Is Home
Ballad In Urgency ->
Wiser Time
Driving Wheel
Downtown Money Waster 
My Morning Song

- electric -
Halfway To Everywhere
I Just Want To See His Face
Another Roadside Tragedy
Share The Ride
Move It On Down The Line
High Head Blues
Thorn In My Pride
- encore -
Jealous Again 

With the by now familiar one-two opening of Soul Singing and Hotel Illness, this two set Friday night show in Houston was off and rolling.  If you're a stat nerd, you're well aware that this is the fourth time this particular coupling of songs has opened a show so far on the tour.  And since we've already established what a huge nerd you are, we both know that you're also hip to the fact that these two songs have been spotted twice in the two and three spots as well.  Now, the reason you know this is because you spend way too much time looking at Black Crowes setlists.  You know it, we know it and it's a safe bet your better half knows it too.  If you're not careful, one of these days you're going to become so consumed that one day you're going to wake up and decide to start a Black Crowes blog.  And then you'll really be ostracized.  

But let's get back to the show.  After the opening two numbers, another one-two combo came along in the form of a pair of Three Snakes tunes...Under A Mountain and Good Friday, the latter of which you have permission to view below.

Following that was What Is Home trailed by Ballad > Wiser, which yet again provided some of the best moments of the show with Rich's playing during Wiser.  Whatever you say about Wiser Time on this tour, the first thing out of your mouth better pertain to the absolute assault and battery he's been committing on this song.  It might be hands down the most underrated aspect of the entire tour.  Have you heard Wiser Time so many times that your brain shuts off when it starts up now?  If so, what a shame.  This song is no longer about a keyboard solo that people whine about too much; it's about a guitar clinic that gets criminally overlooked repeatedly.  

A 9-minute Driving Wheel then made a welcome appearance, albeit not altogether surprising if you're a keen observer of lyrics and location...

Just came up on the midnight special
Baby, how ’bout that
My car broke down in Texas
She stopped dead in her tracks

...and handed the baton off to Downtown Money Waster, which got in and out in a hurry at under five minutes like it had a train to catch.  The second appearance of Smile so far this tour came next, this time placed in the much friendlier confines of not having to follow a 25-minute Ballad > Wiser marathon that left people wiping the sweat from their brow.  While Smile may not blow anyone's doors off, it does appease the weirdos sitting at home who don't actually attend the shows yet measure their greatness by the rarity of the songs that make up the setlist.  To some, the greatest Black Moon Jam ever played pales in comparison to a mid-tempo unreleased track's better-late-than-never debut.  To each his own we say.  Closing out the acoustic set was a crowd-pleasing Morning Song that got a little extra push from Chris on the tail end and sent everybody into the break on a high note. 

Even though it wasn't quite Houston Beer Week yet, before you could say "Bartender," Halfway To Everywhere dropped in with its jam and got everybody out of their seats to do some shit kickin'.  With Rich working the Wah Wah and Steve laying down a greasy groove, boots were movin' and Wrangler covered asses were wigglin'.  After the big opening and groove that Halfway brought, Nonfiction was a surprising selection for the two slot and may have confused a few folks with its abrupt slowdown following the funk.  Halfway and Nonfiction combined went for a good 25 minutes.  And then, as Nonfiction was trailing off into the ether and something new seemed to be sneaking in, of all things, an out on the limb, loose and spacey debut version of Just Want To See His Face came out of nowhere.  Sung by Rich with a bullet mic effect going on, it was laid back, in no hurry and the perfect accompaniment to a fat spliff, if that's your thing.  For all you stat nerds out there again - we're counting this as the sixth tune from Exile On Main Street this band has covered now, not including the Big Toe version of Sweet Virginia but tossing in the Tokyo jam session that included Shake Your Hips from their day-off impromptu mess around in January 1999.  It went on for almost ten mellow minutes and sauntered off with the girls singing those "ooooh ooooh ooooh's" and Steve playing soft and easy before suddenly snapping the snare opening to Another Roadside Tragedy and closing the book on one of the more interesting covers the band has played.  

A nice jam out of Another Roadside Tragedy brought some funky clavinet sounds from Adam and the longer it went the wider the window opened for another segue, but it was not to be.  It wound down, came to a stop and after about 30 seconds or so the next song kicked in, which was....Share the Ride?  Wait, with no continuous segue straight out of Roadside Tragedy?  It's happened before and would have been cool to see again, perhaps with Share the Ride followed by slamming into a nasty Gone, but hey, we don't write the setlists.  We strongly doubt our suggestions mean jack shit to the band.  What's that saying...wish in one hand, take a dump in the other and see which one fills up first?  Well, Black Crowes fans would have a lot of poo in their palm by now if they followed that advice.

After jamming out Share the Ride for a bit, Move It On Down The Line came next and damned if we didn't wonder whether or not the last five songs could have looked like this:

Nonfiction -> Jam ->
I Just Want To See His Face ->
Another Roadside Tragedy -> Jam ->
Share The Ride -> Jam ->
Move It On Down The Line

Is it really asking too much for these guys to play non-stop for 50+ minutes with no breaks in between songs, just one long continuous stretch of uninterrupted music?  We're not asking for the world here.  A little more effort perhaps.  A bit more focus, maybe an attempt at seizing the opportunity that's dangling right there in front of them, a desire to blow minds...something along those lines.  Here's the deal:  We're not going to file a complaint on this one; we will simply view it like a wide open wide receiver, all alone, headed for the endzone and the quarterback decides to check down and dump it to the halfback in the flat.  It didn't cost the team the game but it sure would have looked nice the next morning in the film room.  Life goes on.  Lotta games left to play.

After settling for a field goal, things moved on to High Head Blues as the jamming in the second set continued to give anyone on hallucinogenics plenty of opportunities to find their spirit animal.  By the way, we're just kidding about that whole "settling for a field goal" thing.  Things were moving along just fine and even if there were breaks between songs, they were short and quick as the clock was becoming a factor.  Thorn In My Pride began as soon as High Head Blues ended, went straight into a 5-minute Steve and Joe drum and percussion breakdown and then got right down to business with Chris' abbreviated harp section that set up Luther and headed briskly toward the exit door.  It wasn't a hurried Thorn but it was running the no-huddle and keeping one eye on the clock.  

With Remedy closing things down and Jealous Again as the only encore offering tonight, there might have been a few folks wondering why Houston Don't Dream About Me never showed up.  We'd like to call those folks cry babies.  No, we're kidding.  Hopefully they were in the house at this show from October of '09 to get their fix.  So, was this the last Black Crowes show ever to be played in Houston?  Who knows.  Probably not.  It does take us back 17 years though to this memorable night, one that a lot of fans refer to as one of the top ten all-time shows in band history.  What would your Top Ten All-Time Black Crowes Shows list look like?  It'd be a tough list to put together, no doubt, and of course would be purely subjective...if we ever get caught up on these reviews maybe we'll get around to doing one, just for grins.  For now, we head to the great city of Austin and Stubb's BBQ.