I went to the Black Crowes’ show at Club Nokia Saturday night as someone who mainly just knows the hits. You know, Hard to Handle, She Talks to Angels, Remedy, and Jealous Again. In preparation for the show, I did listen to the albums Lions, Warpaint and 2008’s Before the Frost…Until the Freeze so I’d hopefully have some kind of idea what I’d hear at the show. Well, out of a two hour, sixteen-song set, I only knew maybe five or six of the songs, but I expected that. Despite never seeing them live, I’d always heard they don’t play the hits every show, instead choosing more obscure songs to jam out throughout the course of a full set. Out of their most well-known songs, they only played Jealous Again, leaving the other hits off the set list. That did not bother me too much, though.
Some band called Truth & Salvage Company opened the show, with a pretty typical Southern blues-rock sound, and a keyboardist/part-time vocalist who either looked like Neil Young or did a good job trying to look like Neil Young. The band wasn’t bad, per se, but the songs tended to drag on a bit and after a couple minutes I’d somehow know the words, probably because they were pretty repetitive. They were a fitting opener for the show, however, and the crowd seemed to dig them.
That was a part of the evening that amused me – the crowd. Made up almost entirely of dudes who looked like Danny Masterson’s character Hyde from That 70s Show and older rock chicks who danced near those mustached and/or sideburned guys, the crowd thoroughly enjoyed both bands. There was a guy next to me at the show who wore a blazing white suit coat thing with sequined shiny red roses on it. I was humbled by his presence. The Mustache Men enjoyed breaking into frantic air guitar jams from time to time, which was also fun.
I enjoyed the lack of hipsters at this show – most shows I go to in LA are plagued with v-necks, scarves (even though concerts are usually warm and indoors), and other such nonsense, but thankfully the crowd at Club Nokia was mostly older and more oriented to rock & roll shows. I also saw more than a few people in Them Crooked Vultures shirts, probably purchased at either of the shows two weeks ago that I was too lame to attend.
As for the show itself: Despite not knowing many of the songs Chris Robinson and Friends played, I was pretty damn impressed with the performance. The Black Crowes, despite having a really fast turnover for band members not named Robinson, have always had a reputation for being great live. Every time they’d visit the Fillmore in San Francisco when I was growing up, the band would play three or four sold-out shows, so I always figured they were great in concert.
To my surprise, there was a stretch in the set list made up of songs I actually knew: Whoa Mule, Appaloosa, Ozone Mama (which had a fantastic jam in the middle that went on for about six minutes or so), and I Ain’t Hiding, a great song from the new album that is a departure from the typical Black Crowes sound, as it is more funky and rhythm-driven than they usually are. After that stretch they played My Morning Song, which I didn’t know but the crowd loved; it also had a great jam that went on for a while too. It was a solid group of songs sandwiched in the middle of the set.
The musicians in the Black Crowes really know their stuff (obviously). Despite Chris Robinson arguably being the focal point of the band, the musicians give the songs a vibrant sense of life and passion that his rather unique vocal style matches very effectively. The band ended the show with a rollicking rendition of Traffic’s Feelin Alright, which of course went on for a long time as the guitarists traded off solos and the energy level skyrocketed, eventually resulting in an explosive finish that had all the Mustache Men dancing (and spilling their nine dollar beers or fourteen dollar cocktails).
I thoroughly enjoyed the show, even though as the most casual Black Crowes fan I could have been ‘disappointed’ about the lack of hits. Since I expected to only hear one or two of the hits, I was not upset about it.
After going to this show, it is clear to me why the Black Crowes have always had this reputation as a great live band: they absolutely kill it. Chris Robinson puts a lot into his performance, says “y’all” a lot between songs, and dances around when the band rips into one of their many guitar solos and jams. The end result was a lot of fun, even though they barely touched any of their hits.
Here's a video of Jealous Again from the show.