Since their inaugural reunion show on March 14, I’ve seen The Black Crowes five times. They are the most underrated, unspoken of band out right now. They have barely graced the pages of Rolling Stone and I’ve yet to see them on a magazine cover or TV spot. We’re again in the midst of rock-and-roll’s answer to a Zeppelin, Allman and Skynard conglomerate. The Georgian boys who arrived and ruled the nineties with their classic rock attack, are now floating far from the media and armed with their time machines. The Crowes are channeling and presenting vast, explosive material and, dare I say it, doing it even better then their forefathers. There was a debate on the Crowes’ fan Web site, www.amorica.com, that The Black Crowes are and aren’t better than Led Zeppelin or The Allman Brothers Band. One member said, “Good music is like good wine; it’s aged.” Think of all the mystique and fame Zeppelin and the ABB gathered in a span of time since 1980. We’re only fifteen years deep into the experience that ultimately is The Black Crowes.
In a two night (Sept. 29-30) stint at The Tower Theater in Up-per Darby, Pa, the Crowes averaged around 21 songs a night and nearly three hours of nonrepetitive material. Luckily for me and the entire audience, they recreated on Friday night a 24 minute rendition of “Thorn In My Pride,” complete with a six minute drum solo to spark the charge of the best second half set list I’ve ever experienced. Becoming a live Crowes fan is definitely a process. Six studio releases, two live albums, a greatest hits and an unreleased CD only begin to filter out the diversity of each show. As was the case with Friday night when the Crowes reciprocated their love for spell-binding artists by honoring us and them with their originals. Chris Robinson shared the mic with guitarist Marc Ford when he sang Neil Young’s “L.A.” and brother Rich on Pink Floyd’s “Fearless.” Chris commanded Willie Dixson’s “Mellow Down Easy” and Dylan’s “Forever Young.” Greatest Hits fans would have felt a little more comfortable the first night; many second night “Rich’s Pick” fans were disappointed. Tracks from every album except By Your Side were intermingled, jammed out and far more intense than any studio sound could produce.
The power, intensity and individuality of this band does not rest merely in the fingers of dueling lead guitarists Marc Ford and Rich Robinson-but in the heart, lungs and tongue of Chris Robinson. The songs that Chris handed over generally, were less captivating and impressive. He howls like Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant. Robinson snaps his fingers over his head like he’s cracking a invisible whip. It’s a shame the show ended incomplete, as the band only made it out for one encore.
The Tower’s not known for an liberal curfew, but security was unexpectedly lax, making it all the more enjoyable. Drummer Steve Gorman paid homage to my literary hero Hunter S. Thompson with the “Gonzo” logo on his bass drum. Bands who lead by example, learn from example. Well done, fellas.