Black Crowes soar into Chicago

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The Black Crowes
Park West
Chicago, Illinois
March 7, 2008

The sensory, scintillation-prone, swagger-soaked Black Crowes show sold out in mere minutes when it went on sale, which doesn’t surprise me as this sweet intimate venue Park West in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood only holds around 900 at full capacity.  From what I hear, this well-lit joint is definitely a fave of locals.  From the outside, Park West resembles some kind of darkened, wayward pirate ship with the black & white flags flapping forcefully in the Chitown wind that seems to be ever blowing & damn cold even in March.  For those without tickets, it seemed a real tough time.

tbc-004.jpg Once inside, I found the setup to be simply awesome.  A spacious main floor tapered with a soon-to-be crowded dancefloor & a cool but very small wrap-around balcony.  The sound (thanks to the Crowes’ ace sound crew) was truly phenomenal no matter where you were (even in the restroom).  You could hear everything perfectly & it wasn’t too loud.  Also, the light show was very well done & tasteful. 

The passionate, hard-driving first set ignited with freedom-loving “Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution”.  From there, the Crowes confidently & sonically ran through, in order, the rest of the 11 songs off their newly released thrilling record Warpaint (on their own label Silver Arrow), which just dropped a few days back.  The collective mood was freakily festive and highly electrically charged from the onset.  With guitarist (legend in the making) Luther Dickinson debuting on this breakthrough tour as well as new talented keyboardist Adam MacDougal, the band was on absolute fire & visibly having fun on stage, really throwing it down & feeding off each other all night.  They seemed to be in the greatest of moods & headspace humanly possible. 

Luther came on strong from the jump, adding his guitar mastery while wonderfully complimenting the Crowes’ already and always ready high-powered, sometimes mystical sound.  Bassist Sven Pipien had a mind-bendingly good show as well, with smiles galore.  My sense here is that the band ultimately acts as one entity and everyone (Luther included) adds their best chops, acting on their telepathic timing so easily and naturally that the live result is greater than the sum of their parts.  No one takes more of the spotlight, so to speak, so that the proverbial spotlight is carefully always on the whole band.

tbc-001.jpg This is a rare wondrous delight in the racy rampant all-over-the-place world of rock and roll.  It also serves as proof that you’re seeing a band at their best while peaking the evening away with their unique (as they like to say) freak n’ roll.  TBC shows are perpetually hot & subsequently saucy with spicy nuances & authentic subtleties not found anywhere else.  On top of that, Chris Robinson is a helluva catalystic spark throwing frontman.

Meandering back to the (first) set (whole album), all tunes were highlights for me honestly.  Standing out here were pulsing, dirty south blues roots puller “Walk Believer Walk,” climax building heavy hitting “Oh, Josephine,” psychedelic tinged cosmic wonder filled “Wee Who See The Deep,” and the “Movin’ Down the Line” on which Luther shined, hammering out searing blues chords while CR enjoyed some animated heartfelt dancing – I see this one as a future southern rock anthem.

The buzz I felt after the set was that the Black Crowes are back, stronger than ever and that the fans were more than welcoming Luther and Adam.  I got the vibe that time was now for good times to get even better.  Love and trust were in the room.  I even received a beaming smile from Rich on his way out to the bus, which speaks volumes of what kind of magical night this indeed was.

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After possibly the briefest break I’ve ever known a band to take, The Crowes jubilantly returned to the stage for their highly wily finale.  They broke it wide open with the Delaney (Bramlett) masterpiece nod to Robert Johnson (later covered by Clapton) “Poor Elijah – Johnson tribute medley.”  This time resistant classic song was an exceptional fit for these guys & the crowd ate up this blues-scorched keeper happily.

tbc-005.jpg From there, the BCs tapped into more crowd spasming fare, fervently unleashing true dance pleasers with a strongly brewed “Good Friday,” a deftly performed “Another Roadside Tragedy,” and a wickedly high heady “Rockin’ Chair” that featured Rich & Chris on acoustic guitars.  Then, the grand slamming energy enriched peaking encore erupted with a rousing, rollicking, rocking rendition of the Band’s “Don’t Do It” and an uppity heart warming soul-lifting gem “Hey Grandma”. 

Afterwards the neighborhood bars in the vicinity raged in the afterglow of this epic concert epiphany known as the Black Crowes.  Musical excellence does that.  It’s only natural.  As for our enraptured entourage, we (the freaks) almost figured a way to go to Kentucky for the next show but that damn voice of reason dinned too fucking loud.  I had the time of my life following this whim (my good friend’s 40th birthday) and finding my way to this blazing amazing show.

I most highly recommend buying the studio interpretation Warpaint  (I got mine the day I left for Chicago and I lovingly dig it) and of course, get out there on the road and catch the lively live in the moment experience of these striking songs as well plus more.  It’s all about gettin’ tall.

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