The Black Crowes (Photo by Josh Cheuse)
By Brian M. Howle
There is an undeniable bond between brothers, as any mix of male siblings will attest; and sometimes the best you can hope for is, well, a minimum of carnage or fallout.
And other times – as in this case – regardless of how smooth or bumpy the road has been, the world is blessed with a resulting collaboration (along with some very talented friends) which gives us all a plethora of good times, good quotes and – best of all – good music.
Thankfully, those of us along the Grand Strand can all be witness to the latter. Because pound for pound (or oz. for oz., depending on your stash), one of the best bands to ever hit a studio or stage; the pride of our southern bordering neighbor, Georgia; the clarions of born-again hippies – The Black Crowes – are once again coming to grace the stage at House Of Blues in North Myrtle Beach on Tuesday, September 14.
And not a minute too late, either, because this tour – named the “Say Goodnight to the Bad Guys” tour – will shut down the 20-year run for the band for, in all probablility, several years to come when they play the last currently scheduled show in December.
The iconic and influential rock band just released their first-ever double album of all acoustic materials, Croweology, and is currently embarked on a four-month North American tour which includes a stop along the shore at our fair little town.
Out now via the band’s label Silver Arrow through Megaforce Records, Croweology features new arrangements of the band’s best-loved songs and catalog picks. The album spans the Crowes’ revered catalog with acoustic renditions of 20 songs from their two decades of cosmic rock ‘n’ roll and commemorates the 20th anniversary of their landmark multi-platinum debut, 1990’s Shake Your Moneymaker. Produced by Paul Stacey, Croweology gives listeners an intimate retrospective, stripping away these fan and band favorites like “Jealous Again,” “Remedy,” “She Talks to Angels” and “Wiser Time” to their very essence through brand new recordings captured in 2009 at Sunset Sound Studios in Los Angeles.
To celebrate the release of Croweology, The Black Crowes performed on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” (8/3) and on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (8/4). During this tour, the band was also inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame on September 11 at the 32nd Annual Georgia Music Hall of Fame Awards Show which featured a live performance from the band.
The Black Crowes – comprised of brothers Chris Robinson (vocals/guitar), Rich Robinson (guitar), along with the current incarnation (since 2008) of members Steve Gorman (drums), Sven Pipien (bass), Luther Dickinson (guitar), and Adam McDougall (keyboards) – will support the album’s release on the road all fall on their “Say Goodnight to the Bad Guys” tour. In most cities, the band will perform for three hours: a 90-minute “Acoustic Hors D’oeuvres” set, followed by a 90-minute “Electric Reception with The Black Crowes.”
Right from their start in 1990 – with their six million-selling Shake Your Money Maker, a pivotal work that kick started an authentic style of rock and roll in America – The Black Crowes have been at odds with prevailing commercial trends. Their heady mix of ‘70s inflected rock, Funkadelic soul and heartfelt roots music jostled against the hair metal and high-gloss pop getting airplay at the start of that decade. While the sheer attitude and charm of “Hard To Handle” and “Twice As Hard” managed to make waves, the intervening years have seen the band steadily evolve an increasingly refined, singular sound that takes the best parts of hard rock, gospel, country, psychedelia and anything else it fancies into their hungry maw to create something several light years beyond the young men who recorded “She Talks To Angels.”
And it didn’t hurt that the band caught the ear (and eye) of late night icon David Letterman, who showcased The Black Crowes prominently on then-NBC’s Late Night with David Letterman, propelling the band into mainstream America as a compliment to the already raging FM play the band was receiving on the campuses of colleges across the nation. After Letterman switched to CBS, The Black Crowes have continued to make appearances to the delight of the host and nation alike.
“Even in our most commercially successful period,” says Chris, “there was nothing like us on any format. By the time grunge happened, Southern Harmony (1992) and amorica (1994) didn’t fit into any part of popular music. We looked different, we sounded different, and we set up our culture a little different,” he adds. “Everybody who wanted to bag us because they thought they knew what we were missed out on a lot of good music, good concerts and a band that, even at our weirdest, had something to say.”
The Black Crowes not only had something to say; they became known as as one of rock’s best live acts and have been called a “thoroughbred American rock ‘n’ freakin’ roll band.” Their panoramic live shows feature alternating set lists and signature incendiary musical explorations that are designed to take audiences on a journey.
The band took a break starting in late 2001 which turned out to be a four-year-hiatus. Then, on January 11, 2005, The Black Crowes announced their highly anticipated and long-awaited return to the live concert stage with five special shows at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom (March 22-30, 2005). All five concerts – billed by brothers Chris and Rich Robinson as ‘’All Join Hands” – sold out instantly, marking the fastest New York sell-out that The Black Crowes have experienced to date. To meet the absolutely overwhelming fan demand, two more shows were added at Hammerstein. And those sold out. Total tickets sold in New York City: 22,000. Clearly, The Black Crowes were back.
Since then, the touring dynamos have explored their extensive catalog on main stages from Bonnaroo to the Voodoo Music Experience to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, celebrating nearly two decades of “Cosmic Rock-n-Roll” in front of sold-out audiences everywhere. The Black Crowes are one of the few acts to emerge in the early ‘90s still thriving today. And fewer still can claim to have shared the stage with Jimmy Page, AC/DC, Bob Dylan, Grateful Dead, Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young and The Who. Like these legends, The Black Crowes create music that endures because it speaks to more than momentary concerns – and now, they are once again touring the world, bringing their Freak N’ Roll to the devoted fans that have embraced them. As always, The Black Crowes continue to do things their own way.
On a personal note, I have had the great fortune and pleasure to have caught every appearance by these boys at HOB over past ten-plus years, and as anyone who has attended will concur, they consistently rank in the Top 10 shows EVER at House Of Blues. More like having the preemminent R&R band in America perform in your living room, their playlist is more of a veritable snapshot of the past 20 years of your life than a concert.
So strap on your earth shoes, slide on your bellbottoms and best silk hippie shirts and blouses, and watch the clock to make sure to toast 4:20: ‘Cause one of the best bands ever to be born 20 years too late – The Black Crowes – will smoke the House Of Blues at Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach, SC, on Tuesday, September 14. Doors open 7:30 p.m. For info call 843-272-3000; for tickets call 1-877-598-8497; or visit http://www.livenation.com .
NOTE: Be sure to check out my interview with The Black Crowes’ drummer, Steve Gorman, below.
This article also appears in Alternatives NewsMagazine, Sept. 9, 2010.