The Black Crowes Live: A Look Back at Two Decades of Shows
Photo by Brad Hodge
Worcester Centrum, Worcester, MA, October 16, 1999 (w/Jimmy Page)
This was a warm-up for what were originally supposed to be two shows with Jimmy Page in New York City and two shows in L.A. that ultimately led to the Crowes/Page 2000 summer tour. The set list for this historic event was heavy on Zeppelin and nobody in the crowd or on stage seemed to mind a bit. Chris Robinson handled Robert Plant’s difficult vocal lines expertly, adding his own authentic Southern touch to Plant’s British wail, and guitarists Audley Freed and Rich Robinson gave Page a solid blues foundation on which to build his thundering riffs and solos. Page also played a mean theremin during an encore of “Whole Lotta Love” and nicely adapted to the two Crowes originals of the evening, “No Speak” and “Remedy.”
Several times during the night, members of the Crowes watched Page perform his guitar magic from the stage with their mouths open, his work was that awe-inspiring. To further up the classic rock legend ante, local guitar hero Joe Perry from Aerosmith made a surprise appearance on the last two songs of the night, “You Shook Me” and a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well.”
Tweeter Center, Mansfield, MA, June 11, 2001
Bill Murray famously said it took him 10 years to fully get Hunter S. Thompson out of his system after playing the good doctor in Where the Buffalo Roam, and Page was obviously still in the Crowes’ system almost two years after the Worcester show during this stop on the “Tour of Brotherly Love” shed tour that featured Oasis as a dual headliner.
The set list featured several songs from the 2001 Zeppelin-influenced release Lions, including an extremely heavy opener of “Midnight From the Insight Out” and a towering “Greasy Grass River.” Probably the Crowes’ hardest-rocking performance (without Page) since the early 90s, it also featured “Remedy” as an unusually early third song.
Orpheum, Boston, MA October 30, 2001
The next-to-last performance by the Crowes before their first hiatus, which lasted till early 2005. Fittingly, the show served as a retrospective of the band’s career, drawing evenly from all their albums released to that point except 1999’s By Your Side, represented only by a spirited “Kickin’ My Heart Around.”
Other highlights included a strutting “Thick n Thin,” gorgeous rendition of “How Much for Your Wings,” and perfectly distorted “Nebakanezer.” The strongest song of the night, however, was probably the last, a blistering cover of “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’” by the Rolling Stones. The Crowes headed into the great unknown saluting one of their primary influences, a band with its own set of battling (honorary) brothers which has had a few virtual hiatuses of its own over the years (including the current one).
Orpheum, Boston, MA May 10, 2005
The Black Crowes came back from their break with a much stronger emphasis on jamming, and this concert in particular was heavy on the jams right from the opening “Greasy Grass River.” The non-album favorite “Darling of the Underground Press” was a highlight of a show that frankly overdid the between-song jamming and found the band still working off its rust from three-and-a-half years under wraps.
Marc Ford, doing a second tour of duty as lead guitarist, kicked off a show-closing cover of the Stones’ “Happy” in the wrong key, drawing optical daggers from Chris Robinson. Robinson also announced how much he hated the Orpheum as they wouldn’t let the crowd “burn one down” (the problem from 1992 rearing its ugly head again) and promised the band would never play there again. Following the Crowes’ scheduled gig there the following night, they haven’t returned since.
Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, Hampton, NH, May 27, 2006
By far the mellowest Black Crowes show I have ever attended. It was even more jam-packed than their ’05 Orpheum performance, but with more purpose, mainly to chill everyone out. The Casino Ballroom is a small wooden room across the street from the beach on a boardwalk full of arcades, T-shirt shops and tattoo parlors, and the relaxed vibe fit the Memorial Day weekend atmosphere.
“Black Moon Creeping,” “Downtown Money Waster,” “Share the Ride,” “Waitin’ Guilty” and “Nonfiction” all featured extended jam segments. Covers like “Hide Your Love Away” from The Beatles and “Torn and Frayed” from the Stones also showed off the Crowes’ 70s AM rock side.
Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, Hampton, NH, October 24, 2010
The Black Crowes trooped onstage single-file with clear intent to shake the house to its foundations, and did just that with a powerful introductory trifecta of “Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution,” “Jealous Again” and “Hotel Illness.” If you closed your eyes, you’d swear it was 1992 again and a bunch of 20-somethings were proving themselves as bona fide rock stars.
Like the 2001 Orpheum show, this pre-hiatus concert served as an overview of the Crowes’ entire career, shifting gears from their hard rock side to their psychedelic jam side with songs like a floating version of “Appaloosa” that showed off lead guitarist Luther Dickinson’s slide virtuosity, as well as a cover of Velvet Underground’s “Oh Sweet Nuthin’” that found Rich Robinson to be an emotionally effective lead vocalist.
This was probably the Crowes’ best overall performance since 1992 (the Page show is really in its own category as a Led Zeppelin side project), and if they’re going out, they’re going out on top. But let’s hope the Robinson brothers’ family drama will play out for at least one more act, I could stand seeing these guys 10 more times in the next decade or two.