The Black Crowes at Riverside Theater
We're pretty sure the hippie rockers played a fine set Saturday night
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If a band plays a concert and nobody remembers it, does the concert still exist? I might be wrong about this, but I'm pretty sure I remember seeing The Black Crowes Saturday night at Riverside Theater with the most fucked-up bunch of people I’ve ever rubbed shoulders with at the downtown venue. (To be fair, I’ve yet to catch one of Widespread Panic’s multi-night stands at the Riverside, which have allegedly caused more pre- and post-show brain damage than Chernobyl.)
Unless I'm mistaken, the Southern trad-rock band played for about two hours, drawing mostly from their decent new double album Before The Frost…Until The Freeze. They sounded really good, but any memory of the performance likely fell down a blackout-sized rabbit hole for a sizeable chunk of the exceedingly well-lubricated audience. Not that this matters. A Black Crowes show is like Dennis Hopper’s famous quote about the ’60s—if you remember it, you weren’t really there.
But if you’re wondering how the show went, you’ll be glad to know that the Crowes sounded more or less how you’d expect: like the early ’70s, though more like The Allman Brothers Band than Faces this time. Before The Frost… is a jammier effort than 2008’s relatively concise Warpaint, and this carried over to Saturday’s show, which was heavy on extended extrapolations on already long-winded new songs like “Been A Long Time (Waiting On Love)” and “And The Band Played On.” This is nothing new for the Crowes, who have favored psychedelic instrumental textures over punchy songwriting since the mid-’90s, though lead guitarist Luther Dickinson adds just enough grit to his solos to keep the wank factor mostly in check.
The Crowes reached deeper into their back catalogue only for predictable fan favorites like “Twice As Hard” and “Sting Me,” though these slices of gutbucket rock arguably present the band in its most appealing guise as a shamelessly derivative (and undeniably skillful) revival act. As easy as it is to make fun of singer Chris Robinson’s anorexic Jaggerisms, you can’t deny the pleasures of a revved-up Chuck Berry swipe like “Thick N’ Thin”—a highlight of the night—if you claim to like rock ‘n’ roll. There’s nothing on Before The Frost… that hits with as much arrogant authority, but as a live band, the Crowes remain a good night out for rock fans that wish they could step inside their TV sets whenever Almost Famous comes on.