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 outré 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...

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