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Published: 2008/04/10
by Brad Bahn

The Black Crowes, Park West, Chicago, IL- 3/7

In today's music industry, which primarily is focused upon the next mediocre
four-minute
radio single or iTunes compilation, it is extremely rare when an act is willing
not only to showcase a new album, but play it in its entirety in front of a
live audience. But over the last 18 years, the Black Crowes have always
done things their own way, if occasionally alienating
a mainstream constituency. So, the band was staying true to its roots this Friday
evening in Chicago, by
unveiling the new album to a sold-out crowd at the Park West.

The Crowes' recent LP, entitled Warpaint, is the group's
first full-length studio effort in seven years and arguably their best album since
1996's Three Snakes and One Charm. The disc features 11
tracks – 10 original recordings and a version of the Reverend Charlie Jackson's
"God's Got It" and has been released independently on Silver Arrow
Records. The album also showcases the addition of soulful slide-guitar virtuoso
Luther Dickinson and keyboardist
Adam MacDougall, both of whom are now official members of the group.

Dickinson was in fine form all evening at Park West, harmonizing with Rich Robinson
while offering incendiary slide guitar riffs. From Warpaint’s
opening track, "Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution" to the melodic slide
guitar work on "Wounded Bird" to the final ethereal and beautifully arranged
"Whoa Mule," it was evident not only that both guitarists were on top
of
their game, but that lead vocalist Chris Robinson was sounding better than he has
in years. Such songs as "Oh Josephine", "Locust Street", and
"Movin' On Down The Line" demonstrated that the elder Robinson has
regained the form that helped the Crowes find success on such records as 1992's
multi-platinum Southern Harmony and The Musical Companion.

Though individually all members of the band sounded great, the standout moments
were the intimate ones that the group shared together. The extended outro on "Oh
Josephine," the slide guitar jam on "Evergreen" and the Neil Young-esque
guitar dueling between the Brothers Robinson and Dickinson
on "Wee Who See The Deep" this set was a perfect example of the whole
being greater than the sum of its parts. The complementary harmonies provided by
bassist
Sven Pipien and back-up singers Mona Lisa and Charity along with tasteful keyboard-playing
by MacDougall created a thick, lush sound that filled out the venue and
accompanied the album's solid melodic textures. Another highlight from Warpaint
was "God's Got It", where drummer Steve Gorman took center stage
and played a giant bass drum "apparatus" (as Chris Robinson jokingly referred
it)
while Rich and Luther traded murky gospel-infused riffs and Chris did his signature
"barefoot hippy shuffle." The set concluded
with the final album track, entitled "Whoa Mule," which started a cappella-style
then progressed into a dense, six-minute beat-driven, acoustic number aided by a
djembe played by Gorman elegant keyboard work by MacDougall, and ample guitar interplay
between
Luther and Rich.

After a fifteen-minute intermission, the Black Crowes returned to the stage amidst
a chorus
of deafening cheers. Rather than falling back on such crowd-pleasing favorites
such as "Remedy",
"Hard to Handle", or "Jealous Again" the band went in another
direction. The Crowes pulled off an excellent cover version of "Poor
Elijah" (Delaney & Bonnie) followed by "Good Friday" from their
Three Snakes album. The next selection, however, was perhaps
the highlight of the second part of the show. The group tore into the lesser-known
B-side, "Another Roadside Tragedy" from the previously-released album
The Lost Crowes. Bluesy, upbeat, and soulful, the band managed
to push the tune as far as it would go and brought it all back to the chorus, keeping
the crowd dancing the entire time. Three more covers would follow, including a
rendition of "Rockin' Chair" by the Band. The encore featured a solid
version of "Don't Do It" (also by The Band), along with the mid-tempo
shuffle of Moby Grape's "Hey Grandma." One had the sense that the
band seemed fixated on not only paying homage to their roots-rock predecessors,
but giving the crowd something that one normally wouldn't find at most shows – a rock n' roll history lesson.

While the band's commercial success and mainstream appeal may have faded slightly,
at the Park West Chris Robinson sang, "you need no wings – just set your mind to fly." Agreed.

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