Review: Robinson brothers played a laidback, good-time set – for more than two hours.
If you closed your eyes as the Black Crowes played Saturday at Myth, you could almost imagine being at an outdoor summer festival instead of indoors on a chilly November night at a suburban nightclub built in a former Just for Feet store. Stress on the “almost” part.
Originally heralded as Stonesy bar-rock and Zeppelin crunch revivalists in the early ’90s when most bands wanted to sound like either Guns N’ Roses or Nirvana, the Black Crowes long ago shifted toward the tie-dyed, good-timey jam-band stylings of the Grateful Dead and their fellow Georgians, the Allman Brothers. Saturday’s 2¼-hour performance at the Maplewood megaclub was one of their jammiest yet — but undeniably a good time, too.
After sharing the stage with the Tedeschi Trucks Band this summer, the Crowes arrived Saturday without an opening band and seemingly with every intention of stretching out musically. They set the tone right away by opening with the Traffic/Joe Cocker standard “Feelin’ Alright” — which a discernible portion of the 3,000 fans interpreted as a green light for lighting up the green stashed in their pockets. Wow, what an aromatic start.
By the time the band began wrapping things up, it had only played a couple songs that clocked in at under five minutes. The pre-encore finale “Hard to Handle” might have been brief, but the Otis Redding cover morphed into a hazy version of the Deep Purple/Billy Joe Royal hit “Hush” and went on for another five minutes. So it went on Saturday. Another Crowes radio hit, “Thorn in My Pride,” was similarly drawn out into a harmonica-fueled jam a la the Stones’ “Midnight Rambler.”
Frontman Chris Robinson, who has always capably inflected classic Southern-soul influences in his rock, was as impressive as ever — when he was singing. There were long gaps where Robinson could have crossed the street to Toys R’ Us for early Christmas presents and made it back without missing a note.
The one unknown quotient Saturday was new guitarist Jackie Greene, who seemingly swapped places with his Crowes predecessor Luther Dickinson in Phil Lesh’s band.
A more precise, guitar-godly player, Greene lacked Dickinson’s bluesy grit and sounded a bit too Dead-like in “Wiser Time.” However, he and Crowes co-founder Rich Robinson (Chris’ brother) tag-teamed beautifully in “Ballad in Urgency” and the “Hard to Handle”/“Hush” mashup. Greene also provided fine mandolin work in all-acoustic takes on “Whoa Mule” and “She Talks to Angels.”
The concert ended with a spirited version of the Velvet Underground’s “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’,” a nice ode to recently deceased VU bandleader Lou Reed and a chance for Rich Robinson to step up as lead vocalist. Rich will probably be singing a lot more over the next year or two, since he and Chris once again intend to step away from the Crowes after this tour to focus on solo projects. They can go their separate ways knowing fans still have long attention spans and will be here waiting.