OK, I admit it. The 80's hair-metal explosion had completely won me over. Motley Crue, Cinderella, and Dokken were my bands of choice at the time, and I was quite distressed when Nirvana came along to knock them off their perches at the turn of the 90's decade.
Well, Nirvana wasn't the only band to come along and shake things up around that time. In 1990 the Black Crowes also released their brilliant debut album, Shake Your Money Maker, which saw them pick up where the Faces and Stones left off in the early 70's. Along with other bands like Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin, this was the
music that defined my adolescence, and I couldn't thank the Crowes enough for
bringing it back better than ever.
With the release of their follow-up album, The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion, in 1992, the Black Crowes were on the way to becoming one of my favorite bands. I never did get to see them perform live until 15 years later when they rocked the Loudoun Summer Music Festival, Ashburn, Va. on the hot and drizzly night of August 5th, 2007.
I was more than primed for this show – having been blown away by last year's Freak 'N' Roll…Into The Fog concert DVD, which brilliantly captured one of the Crowes' performances at San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium during their 2005 tour. The show had a uniquely intimate quality, yet bristled with the energy and passion that the band is famous for. I could not wait to finally see the Black Crowes.
At 7:45 PM, the band took the stage with plenty of daylight to go, but fortunately the past week's blisteringly hot, and blazingly sunny, weather was replaced by cloudy, drizzly skies that made for a rather pleasant evening. The Crowes opened the show with a stunning version of "Wiser Time." The exquisite vocal harmonies and twangy guitars immediately set an intoxicating mood for the crowd that only the Black Crowes can do. I was grinning from ear to ear. Chris Robinson, the band's co-founder, joked about performing in the shadow of giant pre-fab office buildings. He said that the audience members could all pretend that this was some secret gathering that only we knew about.
The Black Crowes are famous for mixing up their setlists quite frequently – often leaving many of their hit songs behind in favor of new or less familiar material. But on this particular night, that would certainly not be the case. The performance was dominated by songs from the band's first two albums, which was perfectly fine with me, and also featured a few standout tracks from the later albums such as Amorica, Three Snakes and One Charm, and Lions. Looking at all of the setlists from this tour so far, each night has been an almost entirely different experience, which is pretty cool for those fans who are lucky enough to catch multiple shows.
The band's membership has already changed significantly since the Freak 'N' Roll DVD just two years ago. Gone are longtime guitarist Marc Ford and keyboardist Ed Harsch, who have since been replaced by Paul Stacey on guitar and Adam MacDougall on the keyboards. I guess it will always be the Black Crowes until one of the brother's Robinson finally decides to hang it up.
I was pretty ecstatic to hear "Jealous Again" and "Sting Me" back-to-back and so early on in the set. New guitarist Paul Stacey was easily holding his own on stage, showing great rapport with Rich Robinson, and doing his best to make the audience forget about the guys who came before him. He certainly won me over. "My Morning Song," which never sounded more fierce, and an unexpected go at "She Gave Good Sunflower," a few songs later, turned out to be two of the show's highlights for me.
I could have went home satisfied at this point, but they really sealed the deal with a smoking performance of my all-time favorite Black Crowes tune, "Remedy," to close out the set. After nearly two hours on stage, the Black Crowes came back out for one more song, to send us all home smiling with a gorgeous encore performance of "She Talks To Angels." Speaking of angels, it was a minor miracle that the dark skies overhead did not completely open up on us this night. I was thankful to stay dry, and to finally catch one of America's greatest rock and roll bands in person.
My Morning Song
Share The Ride/Mellow Down Easy
She Gave Good Sunflower
– encore –
She Talks To Angels