THE BLACK CROWES
At the Orpheum
"Rock and Roll is Dead," croons Lenny Kravitz. Indeed, rock and roll radio has found itself punked, rapped and now popped down to FM frequencies frightening close to those forbidden upper 80's. Call him Custer. Or more appropriately, Stonewall. Either way, the Black Crowes' Chris Robinson is fighting a losing battle against time, a battle that will surely end--but not without a fight. On Tuesday, the Southern rocker and friends did just that, converting the Orpheum into a slugfest while treating the audience to a genuine rock and roll spectacle.
The band was touring to promote their most recent album By Your Side. Courtesy of a surprisingly uncommercialized set list, the fans were not given the all-too-common, song-by-song tour of the latest album; rather, the Crowes decided to crank up the amps and unleash a rip-roaring set packed with only their greatest hits. Nearly every tune was not only recognizable, but singable. With its dark lighting and smoke-friendly policies, the Orpheum allowed for the eruption of an audience of closet shower singers, creating a wondrously loud cacophony and a light-hearted comradeship. Neighbors throwing high fives, exchanging dance partners, slinging smiles--the concert was the quintessence of feel-good rock.
Opening with their classic, "Remedy," the Crowes established an intensity that lasted well into the second hour of play. "I haven't felt that much energy since a Gwar show back in the 80s," cried a fellow concert-goer. Indeed, the Crowes had a distinctively non-Orpheum crowd shaking like Salt 'n Pepa, moshing like Eddie Vedder and grooving like Beck on a runaway turntable. Even the Jerry Garcia look-alikes were moving. Scary, yes. Surprising, no. The Crowes and their distinctive, hard edge rock and roll strike a beat that is hard to deny.
Yet this has not always been the story. Just two years ago, the band seemed doomed for the fate of so many other rock bands. After a lousy selling fourth album, they were left with a broken-up band, little direction and worst of all, no recording company. Enter Columbia Records, which urged the band to return to their original hard rock sound, the sound which carried the band's first two albums to world sales of over 10 million. Clearly, the Crowes have agreed. Out with the gawky red curtains, incense-billowing urns and pre-show sitar tracks; in with the flamboyant silver curtains, stage-length mirrors and pre-show anthem rock.
The Black Crowes have returned to their rock and roll roots. From Chris Robinson's swanky, Jaggeresque strut to their soulful infusion of the Hammond B-3 organ and backup choir, the Black Crowes are rocking harder than ever. In their war against pop radio, the Crowes are indeed holding--if not gaining--ground. Maybe the Rolling Stones said it best with, "It's only rock and roll but I like it." On behalf of the standing room only audience, the Black Crowes, and the hordes of other steadfast rockers, I must agree.