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August 17, 2007

8/9: Black Crowes @ Central Park Summerstage

Central Park Summerstage is definitely the place to be this summer. With acts like The Decemberists, Beastie Boys and Black Crowes coming through, it’s no wonder it’s the greatest park in the world…and Thursday night was no exception. The rain held out, and the cool breeze made for the perfect backdrop to the Crowes’ earthy, bluesy rock n’ roll. After taking a few years off, the Crowes are back in full effect, with Chris and Rich Robinson proving that brotherly love makes for a kick-a** hard rock jam band…one that’s among the best on the live circuit. Listening to and watching the hoard of devoted fans that collected in Central Park, singing along to all songs Crowes, it’s obvious that despite a not so brief post 90’s hiatus, the Black Crowes still know how to cook up a dish of down home, southern-like rock n’ roll that remains in high demand.

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The Black Crowes’ debut album, Shake Your Money Maker, was a staple on the soundtrack of the early 90’s. Instant greatest hits like “Hard To Handle” and “She Talks To Angels” are still top picks on bar room juke boxes, especially for those of us who came to our musical awakenings around the same time the Crowes emerged on the scene. Probably like many of my other EARLY 30-something friends out there, I always wondered what happened to the Crowes. Despite some later well-known hits like “Remedy” and “Thorn In My Pride,” the band never seemed to maintain the momentum of its early success. I never got to see the Crowes back in their initial heyday, probably because I still wasn’t allowed to go to concerts by myself…and after braving a Skid Row show in the late 80’s, my mother wasn’t likely to offer up her chaperoning services again (and who can blame her). So when Billboard asked us which shows we wanted to see this summer, the Black Crowes were a no-brainer. Let me just say, these guys sound better than ever this time around! With some revised members, such as Paul Stacey on guitar, a new cd in the works and a summer tour to boot, the Black Crowes are definitely back! Watching with a clear view from the side of the stage, my concert mate Lizzie and I rocked out to the raspy vocals of Chris Robinson and the guitar driven jams and solos often led by brother Rich. A few times throughout the night, we couldn’t help but look at each other and say “They’re awesome!”

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Chris Robinson is the ultimate front man. With a beard almost as long as his hair, a body almost as skinny as the mic stand and dance moves that have him stomping and grooving in front of the drums, he’s like a cross between Jesus and a hippied-out, perhaps smoother moving Mick Jagger. When he’s singing, he’s got this sexy, bluesy raspy-voiced thing going on to the point where if you don’t know all the lyrics (I might have been the only one in that category) it’s almost hard to discern them…but you don’t really care. Singing with such passion and urgency, he literally throws his whole body into it (making it slightly difficult to get a clear picture with an LG, I might add), either shaking because he’s belting it out so hard, like on “Good Morning Little School Girl,” or dancing around in circles with the mic stand fully in air. When he’s not singing, the energetic frontman backs up towards the drums behind him and takes on the role of adoring fan, clapping along, shaking his little hips and grooving in the background as he watches his band mates jam out. He stomps, or better yet almost struts, in place with the backs of his hands perched on his hips, elbows swinging out at his sides, back arched and shoulders out (anyone envisioning a crow??) while his head grooves back and forth in sync with the beats that have clearly invaded his body. Between smiles, he sort of purses his lips as if to impressively say, “Yeah, baby,” while his band mates do their thing.

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Then there’s Rich, who’s the total opposite of his charismatic brother. Unlike Chris, who can’t seem to stand still, Rich is way more sedate…almost to the point of not moving any part of his body other than his fingers. Don’t be fooled. He’s 100% the backbone of the band, plucking and strumming away on bluesy rock guitar solos during nearly every song, yet also being gracious enough to step back to let fellow guitarist Stacey and/or Sven Pipien take over the lead at times. The vocal apples don’t fall too far from the family tree either…harmonizing with Chris on “Jealous Again” and “Wiser Time,” Rich helped add beautifully melodic and sometimes softer moments to the Crowes’ rock n’ roll show.

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After an incredible harmonica solo c/o Chris (perhaps my concert mate’s favorite part of the night…lol), the band brought up North Mississippi Allstar (opening band) guitarist Luther Dickinson, which was definitely the biggest highlight for me. His guest appearance was hardly a surprise, considering he’s often played with Rich on his side project Circle Sound and is, according to Chris, “all over the new album.” Dickinson totally funked it up on his slide guitar during “Downtown Money Waster” and helped the guys jam into an extended yet awesome version of “Thorn In My Pride” that was so hardcore it blew out the drum amps! “Amps never blow out in Pennsylvania," joked Chris. Amps in tact, the biggest jam of the night ensued resulting in a rock n’ roll frenzy on the stage, with drums, keyboards, harmonica and 4..count ‘em FOUR…guitar slingers all going at it at the same time.

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Some other highlights included a stunning, almost gospel-like rendition of “Soul Singing” that finally allowed the two female back up singers to show off their vocal chops and then the more mellow “Wiser Time” that not only showcased the Robinson brothers as a smooth sounding vocal duo, but also allowed each band member some solo time. Set closer “Remedy” totally revved up the crowd even as the park’s infamously early curfew drew near and had all of us asking in unison, “Baby, baby why can’t you sit still?” But what I want to know is:  Where was “She Talks To Angels??”  All in all, another great night of music in the Park!

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Comments

Ross

Wish I was there! His chops are longer than mine. Can I grow mine out now?

Dana

God, I love them - can't believe I missed the show but glad I could lvoe vicariously through you! Great post, as always...

qponqueen

All we need is a barber and we're set to rock. Great report..Central Park is the place to be. Thanks for colorful comments. Keep up the good work.

amanda walk

yo. great blog! Wish i had been there. xo

Emily

I'm jealous!

lauren

Great blog Les! Sounds like you had a great time!

tammie

Great recap....saw them at the beach and they jammed there too.

Wendy

Love the Black Crows! Wish I could have been there...

Randi

What an Awesome concert. The did rock night.It really was an incredible harmonica solo. Sorry we never met up :)

Jason

Had a blast last night at the concert too. You once again captured the night perfectly in your write up!

Cuz

Great review once again. Billboard needs to hire you full time.

Cuz2B

Huge Fan of the The Black Crowes! Rock on

idnar nomis

Best part of your blog...Chris Robinson....he’s like a cross between Jesus and a hippied-out, perhaps smoother moving Mick Jagger. That is the perfect description!

Shannon

Nothing beats a show in Central Park! great blog. I love NYC.

Bride2B

Great write-up, glad the rain held out for you.
Wish I could have seen them live. Haven't seen them in years. Always put on a good show.

mike

wish I was there

Lara

great posting, yet again!!!

Alison

those guys are too skinny and hairy for my taste, but they do make great music.

jody p

Awesome! I love the Black Crowes!! Sounds like it was a fantastic evening.

BJ Kutcher

I am just Ga Ga over this. Way to hook me up with another kick A** review.

Nick

Sounds like a great time.

Eirual Nomis

Way to mix up the DMB series. Sounds like a great night. BTW you'll be writing Ben's college essays.

Chantal

Hey Guys! Leslie.. awesome review. Unfortunately, we had to miss it, but other people we know who went said it Rocked! Thanks for bringing the show to our computers-- I feel like I was there! :)
Good luck!

bobby

once again, an expert review

Lucy

Nothing better than a concert in Central Park...looks like a great evening and another amazing review ++++++

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