Black Crowes put the “classic” back in rock

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Black Crowes
Mud Island Amphitheater
Memphis, Tennessee
October 20, 2007

The Black Crowes could have been the biggest rock band of the past few decades, but inner turmoil and constant personnel changes derailed a band that has always seemed to be on the cusp of greatness.  Not unknown, critics-love-them greatness, but genuine stadium-sellout greatness.

Despite the challenges that the band has faced – some self-inflicted – they have persevered, and still churn out great music.  However, had there been any continuity whatsoever, they could have been huge.  Their October, 2007 Memphis show gave the audience glimpses of that greatness.

blackcrowes_071020_b.jpg The Crowes emerged through the incense-induced smoke following local Memphis act the Gamble Brothers Band and Cincinnati’s The Buffalo Killers. 

Hampered by a broken ankle, Rich Robinson sat perched upon a stool while the rest of the band kicked off the show with "(Only) Halfway To Everywhere." 

While the younger Robinson may have been confined to a seat, the elder Chris was as mobile as ever.  He’s a real throwback to rock band frontmen of the 70s, strutting across the stage in all his Plant/Jagger-esque glory during a rocking "Greasy Grass River," microphone extended as his scarf flapped in the breezy Memphis night.  

The Crowes showed their versatility, following a raucous "Sting Me" with balladry in the form of "Girl From A Pawnshop," and then the real rock and roll show began.

"My Morning Song" had a downright nasty "Catfish Blues" sandwiched in the middle, and "High Head Blues" was scorching.  Rich has really stepped it up since the (second) Marc Ford departure.  While Paul Stacey admirably jumped into the lead guitar spot, Robinson has raised his game considerably. 

The song of the evening, though, came via an epic version of "Wiser Time" that bled into "Thorn In My Pride."  Stretching nearly 20 minutes, it was the Crowes at their best: Robinson’s A+ vocals over a band firing on all cylinders on two of the tracks from 1992’s The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, one of the best albums of the last 20 years.

The show closed with a decent-enough version of "Remedy," and the "Don’t Do It" encore was a great way to end the show. 

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The Crowes’ problem has NEVER been delivering a solid performance.  They come to play every night, rocking their collective asses off.  If they could hold a line-up together long enough to build momentum, they’d be right up there with the bands whose lead singers Chris Robinson emulates on stage. 

However, for the Black Crowes, this has become a big "if," and that’s a shame.

(Only) Halfway To Everywhere, Greasy Grass River, Sting Me, Jealous Again, Girl From A Pawnshop, My Morning Song > Catfish Blues > My Morning Song, Ole Man Trouble, High Head Blues, Soul Singing, Wiser Time > Thorn In My Pride, Remedy
Encore: Don’t Do It

 

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