“Wow! The Black Crowes live! This will give me a chance to see what I missed about four years ago”, is what I thought to myself as I was handed Freak ‘N’ Roll Into The Fog. That’s right. I gave up my seat to a Black Crowes/Oasis concert, much to the dismay of my sister and brother-in-law, Rob. It’s a long story; I won’t go into it here. Since that day, every time a Crowes tune comes up I hear about it, especially from said sister and brother-in-law.
It was through Rob that I got my first introduction to The Black Crowes. It all started with him lending a teenaged Fantasma The Crowes’ second album, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, which included such rockers as “Sting Me” and “Remedy”. From there I was hooked, marking one more band he got me into and I do owe him a lot. He ranks right next to El Bicho himself, as far as getting me into new music and sounds, but that’s a tale for another time.
Freak ‘N’ Roll, filmed in late 2005 at San Francisco’s historic Fillmore Auditorium, finds the band – Mark Ford and Rich Robinson (guitars), brother Chris Robinson (vocals), Steve Gorman (drums), Eddie Hawrysch (keyboards) and Sven Pipien (bass) – in top form. The guitars are awesome and Chris’ vocals have lost nothing since the band’s first album, Shake Your Money Maker. All but four songs on this DVD are from the band’s first four albums, which most fans consider to be their best body of work.
The concert moves well from beginning to end and is dotted with footage of the band wandering thought different parts of the city, including Chinatown and some backwoods areas; this footage is used mostly while the band jams and works well that way. As a bonus, there is some extra footage of the band in rehearsals and warming up before the show, which includes scenes of Chris’ wife, Kate Hudson, applying make-up to him and a few others and provides a good look at the playful side of The Crowes.
The disk kicks off rocking with “(Only) Halfway To Everywhere” and moves through soulful performances of “No Speak No Slave” and “Welcome To The Good Times”. For the stomping “Jealous Again,” the horn section exits, bringing the band to its rock ‘n’ roll core. After “My Morning Song”, the rest of the band takes a break, leaving the stage to the two guitarists and the wonderful bluegrass number, “Sunday Night Buttermilk Waltz”. From there we’re set up for the acoustic versions of “Cursed Diamond” and fan favorite “She Talks To Angels”, after which the core of the band returns for a few more mellow rockers.
The return of the horn section brings The Crowes back to solid rocking by way of their first hit, the Otis Redding classic “Hard To Handle”. The band keeps the mood jumping and hopping with blues master Willie Dixon’s “Mellow Down Easy” and their own romp, “Remedy”. To close out the show, a very entertaining two hours and fifteen minutes later, the Crowes simmer down a little for Robbie Robertson’s “The Night They Drove Ol’ Dixie Down”, and do a great job at it.
Throughout the entire show, Chris’ enthusiastic dancing and interaction with the crowd give off a wonderful hippie/Mick Jagger vibe. The whole band displays a hippie/southern rocker attitude a la Canned Heat, making them the perfect band for the Fillmore stage, which, by the way, is wonderfully illuminated by electric candles. The band, including horn section and back-up singers, is definitely having a rocking good time playing their brand of straight forward rock ‘n’ roll and it shows in the jams they indulge in, which I‘m sure my pal Fumo would appreciate. Freak ‘N’ Roll is certainly not “hard to handle” as it captures one of the better bands of the day at their best. This DVD is surely one I’ll enjoy time and time again. So boogie on out, grab this disk and let the “bon ton roulet” into the fog.
Written by Fantasma el Rey