Concert review: The Black Crowes at Ruth Eckerd Hall (with photos)

[image-1]When the band finally made their grand entrance, all hippied-out and laid-back, the crowd jumped to their feet, and were greeted with the opening song from the band's new album, Before the Frost...Until the Freeze. There'd been some agitated buzz online about the fact that the Crowes were sticking mainly with their newer songs, and the next number, "And The Band Played On," also a track from Before the Freeze, proved them right. But a sublime jam was drawn from that second song, Robinson picking up a guitar to join in the winding and sprawling soundscape, guitarist Luther Dickinson laying down liquid notes like Jerry Garcia, and Rich Robinson twining his own guitar solos around Dickinson's. The song got me excited about the rest of the set and pretty much made my whole night.

The sound was fantastic, the band was on fire, but it was a slow burn, piano-fueled Southern country scorchers and heavy gospel-tinged rockers broken up by too many slower numbers, none of them known by the general fans, let alone those who'd come to see "She Talks to Angels" and "Hard to Handle." After playing the particularly "Appaloosa," also from Before the Freeze and the sort of [image-2]number that prompted beer and cigarette breaks, and a outflux of hit-seekers, Chris teased, "Must be a nice buffet out there, huh? Don't worry, the extra gravy was on us." And for the rest of the set, the Crowes continued to steer clear of their "hits," though they did play "Jealous Again," and touched on some fan favorites -- the heavy stompin' "Evergreen," and "Wiser Time," Chris belting out the lyrics with soulful abandon while Dickinson channeled Duane Allman on slide-guitar. The Crowes' rendition of Velvet Underground's "Oh Sweet Nuthin'!" was also a highlight with its lovely six-part harmonies and Southern-fried feel. The WTF? part of the evening came with "I Ain't Hiding," a song at odds with the rest of the set with its disco-funky backbeat and bassist Sven Pipien's high-pitched hoots set against it. Fun, but out of place for sure.

When the band returned for their encore, Chris has some more choice words. "Just for a point of reference," he began, "We play alot of shows where people are on drugs. This is the first one where the drug of choice is Cialus and Flomax." Whether he was referencing the overaged men in the crowd, or the general lack of a crowd by the show's finish, we'll never know. I'm still wondering why the Crowes would choose to play such a venue, one with higher-priced seats and a generally older crowd, and then make a jab at the people who show up.

[image-3]But overall, I had a pretty great time, aside from the slow moments. Say what you will about the Black Crowes playing what they want to play and not necessarily what their audiences want to hear -- the band still knows how to put on one hell of a rock show, slow moments and all. I knew two of the songs and was completely in the dark about the rest, but still managed to have a good time, my downtrodden spirits lifted. Chris Robinson's remarks aside, I left feeling happy and fulfilled.

Here's the complete setlist:

1. Good Morning Captain

2. And The Band Played On -> Jam

3. Cypress Tree

4. Evergreen**

5. Garden Gate

6. Appaloosa

7. A Train Still Makes a Lonely Sound

8. Wiser Time

9. Oh! Sweet Nothin'

10. I Ain't Hiding

11. Soul Singing

12. Shady Grove

13. Jealous Again

14. Been A Long Time (Waiting On Love)


Thick N' Thin



I’ve seen the Black Crowes a few times over the years — once at Langerado in the Spring of '06, and again later that summer at the Ford Amp, when there were so few people showed because of it raining all day that everyone was packed into the pavilion. The security was so tight that lead singer Chris Robinson felt the need to call them out and complain about them not allowing people to come up to the front of the stage to dance, since there were all of a few thousand in the whole damn place.

At the time, I appreciated his candor and wasn't surprised when they finally made their way back to the Bay area in 2008 and stopped at a different venue: Ruth Eckerd Hall. I wasn't at that show, but I was there for their return to Clearwater this past Wednesday, October 7, and Robinson has some choice commentary that night, too, only this time his seeming ire was directed at the audience. [all photos by Phil Bardi]

The hall was about half-full, a scattered crowd of casual fans and die-hards mixed with the overdressed groups of season ticket holders. The smell of Nag Champa wafted through the air, a bundle of incense sticks burning in a clump at the corner of a stage bathed in saturated light.

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