Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Williamsburg Music Hall, Brooklyn, NY – 8/10
Chris Robinson continues to show why he is a rock ‘n’ roll icon.
The skinny, energetic, bearded front man played two sets of southern-country style music with his new side project – The Chris Robinson Brotherhood – before a sold-out crowd at the intimate, warehouse-like Williamsburg Music Hall. His group consists of guitarist Neal Casal, keyboardist Adam MacDougall, drummer George Sluppick, and bassist Mark “Muddy” Dutton.
The five-piece band took the stage at 9:10, opening up with the folkie song: “Tomorrow Blues.” A relaxed Robinson was all smiles as his band set the tone with an upbeat funky, country groove.
The second song, “Eagles on the Highway” was more Black Crowes style, consisting of a fast pace and a sing-along chorus, posing the question, “Are you ready to say goodbye?” Robinson, whose guitar playing has improved vastly since the 2004 New Mud Earth tour, created a spacey Grateful Dead-like jam backed by the playing of Casal, Dutton, and MacDougall.
Before “Poor Elijah,” Robinson joked: “We hitchhiked all the way from Southern California and we’re going to show pictures from our trip.” “Elijah,” showcased Casal’s bottleneck twang and Sluppick’s steady rodeo beat.
CRB slowed down the pace with the Crowes’ “Appaloosa,” behind Robinson’s full, crisp vocals. The band segued into a slow, quiet, peaceful jam before heading into “Star or Stone,” that had Robinson and Casal harmonizing the lyric, “Close the window, I can’t hear the highway anymore.”
A cover of Bob Dylan’s “Tough Mama,’ brought a roar to the sold-out crowd. The Dylan song, which was performed countless times by the Jerry Garcia Band, seemed the perfect fit since it was officially Jerry Week. MacDougall showed off his chops during a spacey distortion jam before Robinson took over the bus leading the band back into “Tough Mama.”
CRB hit the breaks again with “Beware” that had a dark, suspenseful tone, reminiscent of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s “Wooden Ships.” CRB got the crowd on its feet again with the upbeat, happy “Rosalee.” The song possessed a sing-along chorus about getting high and closed out the first set at 10:30. “Thanks for coming out,” Robinson shouted. “We’re going to take a quick break and be back in a flash.”
Twenty-six minutes later, CRB retook the stage. They opened with the rock n’ roller “40 Days,” that featured the funky bass playing of Dutton. Followed by a slow spacey jam, the band moved into a country groove and played “Tulsa Yesterday.”
Robinson showed his affection for The Grateful Dead again with the Robert Hunter/Garcia original “They Love Each Other.” The CRB version would have made Jerry smile from the heavens above.
“Vibration & Light Suite,” started off breezy and jazzy, like the beginning of “Eyes of the World,” before moving into a dark, dreamy, distorted jam and then switching into a fast-paced jazzy, funky jam that closed the number and moved the band into the high energy “Ride,” with the southern anthem chorus of “People, get ready to rise.”
CRB continued to keep people moving and shaking with the Crowes’ original, “I Ain’t Hiding.” It was the second song of the night from the 2009 Before The Frost … Until The Freeze album. To close out the second set, the band slowed things down a bit with the back-to-back combination of “Sorrows of a Blue-Eyed Liar,” and “Sunday Sound,” featuring the brilliant line: “Like money on the ground, we will find our way home.”
Robinson and the band returned home quickly for a two-song encore of Carl Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes,” and Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Mississippi You’re On My Mind,” bringing a fine evening to a satisfying close.