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

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

Feelin' Alright
I Ain't Hiding
Downtown Money Waster >
Thorn In My Pride
Only Halfway To Everywhere
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

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

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

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 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.