Words and Images by: Jake Krolick
The Black Crowes :: 11.02.07 :: Electric Factory :: Philadelphia, PA
In India the art of storytelling is called Katha. In the United States, Native American stories are as diverse as the trees of the Earth. Most of the fairytales, legends, and fables that have survived to today have come from great storytellers from all walks of life. A block from Philadelphia's Electric Factory is a home once lived in by Edgar Allen Poe. If you wrapped up all the world's stories and tellers you would have a fairly close approximation of Chris Robinson and The Black Crowes.
| The Black Crowes :: 11.02 :: Philadelphia|
A blackbird flew into Philadelphia to kick off a two-night finale on a less-than-sparkling 2007 tour. Many long time fans weren't excited by the lack of diversity in this tour's setlists and the departure of guitarist Marc Ford. Still, how could you not get excited over The Black Crowes perched in your city for two nights? The Crowes combine glistening vocals, burly guitars and an awe-inspiring compassion for the art of musical storytelling. On this Friday, the Philly crowd was hard drinking, younger, less polished and ready for whatever the evening tossed their way. The venue was less than sold out and the extra wiggle room made it easy to pull multiple vantage points throughout the night. The band literally hobbled on stage at 9:30. Rich Robinson had recently hurt his foot and was sporting an unattractive boot. Their shaggy helmsman, Chris Robinson, led off with a powerful "No Speak, No Slave."
Rooster crows at the break of dawn/ A mother dies without her only son/ A doctor laughs in the face of disease/ I never once heard a preacher say please
| Chris Robinson - The Black Crowes :: 11.02 :: Philadelphia|
The images conjure something deeply spiritual and moving, and it was classic Crowes from the start as they built to a big release full of huge crescendos. Chris' voice excelled at creating a sense of dynamics within the song, too. "Cosmic Friend" struck like lightning, showing a nice blend from the Robinson brothers and bassist Sven Pipien. Chris entered a shaman trance, spasms and all, for this one. He tossed his head back like a bull one moment only to grab at his mic stand and heave it skyward the next. The mic stand became part of him, just another appendage to gesticulate with, a crutch one moment and a wild three-legged prop for his voice the next.
It was not just the story being told on stage, but the setting that surrounded that story that moved us. The combination of rich, velvety Persian rugs covering the stage, luck brought on by the crescent moon, the star symbol on Chris' hand and the familiar incense filling the venue made seeing The Black Crowes feel right. An aroma therapist once told me, "When people smell things they are linked immediately and unconsciously to the past." The show sent people to a place in their minds full of personal memories. Those memories are part of what brought fans out to this performance.
Despite Rich's occasional looks of distress at being stuck sitting in a chair all evening, he, drummer Steve Gorman and Pipien kept the Crowes moving like a well-oiled machine. For example, "Ballad In Urgency" > "Wiser Time" was a beautiful explosion of rock 'n' roll with a deeply sexy groove just beneath the surface. It was as if we were seeing a Muscle Shoals version of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
| Rich Robinson - The Black Crowes :: 11.02|
The crowd warmly welcomed tunes from The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion. Both Brothers of a Feather shined as they exchanged vocals on "You Don't Miss Your Water." This calm captivating tune pulled at our heartstrings as the Robinsons shot each other warm glances. Paul Stacey added some much needed lead guitar spice to "Soul Singing" through "Thorn In My Pride." His economical take on these road worn classics was a nice treat for the attentive older fans.
According to the Bible, "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." It was a combination of faith and guts that brought The Black Crowes to the Electric Factory. In the 17 years they've been together they've sold millions of records and landed a few hits, but they've also been slagged by critics and suffered countless personnel changes. The combination of Chris Robinson's vocal twists and the tightness of the rest of this current incarnation made even the most heavily played tunes not so tired sounding. Sure, some songs were repeated and most shows only clocked in around 100-minutes on this tour, but if this band captures the vibe they had in Philly on tape then their upcoming album and next tour should get interesting. What pulled you into loving this band may not have always been evident during this tour, but have faith because it's still tucked neatly in the wings waiting for an opportune moment to rear its beak.
Black Crowes Live at the Electric Factory
JamBase | Philly
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