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Music DVD Review: Black Crowes – Warpaint Live

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Earlier this year, I wrote a review of this concert, which I have now to come to question. Allow me to explain…

Recorded last year at Los Angeles' Wiltern Theatre, Warpaint Live comes exactly as advertised. It's the Black Crowes performing their latest album Warpaint live from start to finish, along with a few choice covers of songs by the Stones, Eric Clapton, and Delaney and Bonnie.

So anyway, at the time I wrote the review, this concert was only available in CD form. And although the review was a positive one, I'm now not at all sure I really gave this performance the justice it really deserves.

Having now seen, as well as heard this great show on DVD in glorious DTS surround sound (there's also a Dolby 5.1 mix), what I can tell you for sure is that hearing it on DVD is like hearing it for the first time. The sound on this DVD — particularly the DTS surround mix — brings out everything in a way the CD only hinted at. So the DVD wins that battle, hands down.

The mix of Rich Robinson and Luther Dickinson's guitars is crisp and sharp. Steve Gorman's drums crack like gunshots. And since Chris Robinson can still shout his pot-filled lungs out, the vocals come through loud and clear as well.

But Adam MacDougall's keyboards are a particular revelation. On songs like "Goodbye Daughters Of The Revolution," MacDougall summons up the spirit of the great Nicky Hopkins on piano in a way I thought was no longer possible. Not in the year 2009 anyway. At other times, like on the positively greeezy sounding "Walk Believer Walk," his organ adds the sort of thick dimension that's like pouring syrup on an already smoldering griddle.

What also becomes clear, though, is just how formidable a live band the Black Crowes have become. In my original review of the CD, I said that there was a quality to the performance that suggested sort of a looosey-goosey groove. True enough to a point. But don't let that fool you. Hearing the mix here, these guys sound as tight as a well-oiled, fully fuel-injected machine. Like I said, hearing the performance with this mix is like hearing it for the first time.

I'd also be remiss if I didn't say that Luther Dickinson is one hell of a guitar player. His slide work in particular is just jaw-droppingly good — and there is plenty of it here. From the fluid touches he adds to the gospel driven "God's Got It," to the hard riffing heard on "Wee Who See The Deep."

Basically, I already knew this was a pretty good performance — I just had no idea it was this good. After years of struggling to find a musical identity — from the early days as kind of a Faces knockoff, to their mid-period as something of a modern day Allmans or Dead — the Robinson Brothers have settled into a real nice place that really suits them well.

Call it kind of a funky, southern-fried stew that mixes the best elements of blues and gospel with the greasy southern rock of Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett and Duane-era Allmans. Whatever you choose to call it, the bottom line is it's finger-lickin' good.

I haven't talked much about the video aspect of this release because, quite frankly, while there's absolutely nothing wrong with it, there's nothing particularly special about it either. The camera work is fine, and you do get to see pretty much everyone doing their thing here. But the colors are also a bit dark and washed out looking in places — at least during the early parts of the DVD. In fairness though, this does improve as the show goes on. The shots of Chris Robinson from behind, facing the crowd with the house lights up during the encores are pretty cool looking too. 

Anyway, maybe I just need to see this on one of those Blu-ray thingies.

But the sound is amazing. If you are looking to hear the Black Crowes do their album Warpaint live, and have a decent home theater set-up, skip the CD and get this. If nothing else, you don't even need to watch it. Just turn the sound up. Loud.

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.