Black Crowes and Tedeschi Trucks Band, Bank of America Pavilion, Boston, MA- 7/30
Photo by Matthew Shelter
Through a rising haze of incense, the ever-elastic Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson promised the sold-out Boston crowd gathered at the Bank of America Pavilion a ‘Tuesday night rock-and-roll show,’ following the sextet of Southern harmony’s rattling opener “Soul Singing.” It was great to see him and the Crowes happy across two hours of rambling, roaring mysticism, as band history has been complicated at times by reports of brotherly dissonance, intermittent hiatus, and solo projects. Sibling Rich Robinson and his axe counterpart Jackie Greene, the latest to hold the lead guitar chair, fired countless six-string salvos at each other from opposing sides of the stage throughout extended takes of the band’s catalog, never better than on the couplet of “High Head Blues” and “Been a Long Time.”
Vocally, Robinson was in strong form, bending then elongating to stretch every barbed-blues or love-soaked note from his wiry frame. It’s a job to belt over the top of the Crowes’ instrumental thunder, yet the bearded and buoyant one left no doubt he can deliver on his rock-and roll pledge. Zigzagging down a setlist of stops on an over two-decade timeline, the second half was reserved mostly for the classics. There was a delicate acoustic “She Talks to Angels” with Greene on mandolin, and dive bomber runs on “Remedy” and “Hard to Handle,” the latter dipping its toes into Deep Purple’s “Hush” before resolving into deafening applause from the Beantown faithful. Encores of “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” and “Turn on Your Lovelight,” saw the Crowes’ six augmented by the Tedeschi Trucks Band, with The London Souls’ Tash Neal joining the fun on the closer.
With a start time of 7 pm sharp, it was a question as to whether the Tedeschi Trucks Band appearance would get the attendance it deserved as the 11-piece ensemble took the stage to a steadily-filling pavilion illuminated by the remaining evening sun. Those likely still scrambling to get to the waterfront venue received all the motivation they could need from the opening bars of “Made Up Mind,” the heavy-grinding title track of the group’s forthcoming sophomore studio record. By song’s end, every seat was taken.
Over their 90-minute set, TTB previewed several cuts from the new album and left ample opportunity for Boston-area native Susan Tedeschi to receive her warranted recognition from the locals, and in return with voice and guitar show why she is as bright a star within this musical constellation she leads with husband Derek Trucks. In pseudo-animal print, Tedeschi stalked the stage on a vocal-shredding “Nobody’s Free,” which eventually found just Trucks and his soaring, searing guitar, drumming duo of J.J. Johnson and Tyler Greenwell, and touring bassist Eric Krasno, forming a temporary ‘power quartet’ before Kebbi Williams and his sax jumped back in, his atonal washes evoking Ornette Coleman.
A defining example of the risk, respect, and reward of Tedsechi Trucks Band is its selfless devotion to the performance not the performer, shifting its shape and sound regardless of where the spotlight falls in order to best present the song. Just as the sun was setting and the skyline was powering up the group concluded its night on new cut “The Storm” without half the band, just Tedeschi, Trucks, and the rhythm section looping a riff under the crushing crescendo of percussion, including a stealthy appearance by Chris Robinson.
Refreshingly in this era, for these three bands it’s only about the joy of making music.