The Black Crowes At The Wiltern Theater
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By Crystal Larsen
Since the release of their debut album, 1990's Shake Your Money Maker, the Black Crowes have remained a rock anomaly. Their '70s-inspired blues/rock style was in stark contrast to the grunge and alternative sound that was popular in the decade during which they emerged, but they weren't a carbon copy of their influential predecessors either. In their 23 years of existence they've sold millions of albums and earned the distinction as one of rock's best live acts. And on Nov. 23 they drew a nearly sold-out crowd at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles.
Three years after the announcement of their "indefinite hiatus," the Black Crowes are in the middle of their Lay Down With Number 13 worldwide jaunt, which kicked off in March 2012 with five sold-out shows in the UK. With no opening act, the band casually emerged just after 9 p.m. and took their places on a dimly-lit stage, with brothers Chris and Rich Robinson still sporting their familiar shoulder-length locks. As Rich Robinson's opening guitar chords to "Soul Singing" began, Chris Robinson's soulful voice filled the venue and audience members' beer-cupping hands flew up into the air and collectively swayed together.
"Welcome to your very own Saturday night," said Chris Robinson in his only address to the crowd. The fans didn't need introductions to each song filled with anecdotes about why they were written and what they mean. Judging by the dedicated following the Black Crowes have amassed, it's likely everyone in the crowd already knew the stories, and were just there to hear the songs and move their bodies in a way that resembled the type of mud dancing that must have gone on during Woodstock.
The performances that garnered the loudest responses were those that featured Chris Robinson on harmonica: "Hotel Illness" and "Thorn In My Pride." The latter was preceded by a lengthy jam session that was filled with dueling guitar solos from lead guitarist Jackie Greene and Rich Robinson, proving the band's talent for keeping their audience wild and excited with only their instruments. With Rich Robinson on acoustic guitar and Greene on mandolin, Chris Robinson then took center stage positioned under a soft spotlight for one of the finest moments of the evening, a performance of their hit "She Talks To Angels." By the time Rich Robinson had settled into the signature intro not a person in the house was still seated and Chris Robinson's vocals began, soaring high above the classic studio recording. At one point during the set, Rich Robinson, who will release a solo album in early 2014, showed off his vocal chops by taking the lead on "By Your Side."
The evening was complemented with two shots of the Rolling Stones: "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "Wild Horses," the latter of which was performed as part of the encore, followed by a cover of Little Feat's "Dixie Chicken." After "Wild Horses," I was convinced the Black Crowes were made to sing that song.
Before the band exited the stage for the final time that night, Chris Robinson left the crowd with a peace sign and two words: "Right on."
Right on, indeed.
"Goodbye Daughters Of The Revolution"
"She Gave Good Sunflower"
"Good Morning Captain"
"Descending"/"Jumpin' Jack Flash" (Rolling Stones cover)
"What Is Home"
"By Your Side" (sang by Rich Robinson)
"Thorn In My Pride"
"She Talks To Angels"
"Hard To Handle"/"Hush" (Otis Redding/Joe South covers)
"Wild Horses" (Rolling Stones cover)
"Dixie Chicken" (Little Feat cover)
To catch the Black Crowes in a city near you, click here for tour dates.