The Black Crowes | 04.25 | Lake Tahoe

Words by: Dennis Cook | Images by: Josh Miller

The Black Crowes :: 04.25.08 :: Harrah's South Shore Room :: Lake Tahoe, NV

The Robinson Boys :: 04.25 :: Tahoe
It was during the tail end of "Cursed Diamond" that The Black Crowes switched on. Scanning the stage, you found drummer Steve Gorman, eyes closed, head down, raising the pulse rate with steely determination, Sven Pipien rocking his bass like a beloved child at a playground, grinning softly, and to his left Adam MacDougal hammered his keys, eyes shut tight as sweat flew onto his piano. In no small way, the core of the Crowes' appeal is their ability to deliver songs that set one free – free from daily worries, free from the past or just free to shake what mama gave ya. They are talented pros that can get up there and rarely hit a bum note or stumble perceptively, but what keeps the faithful, well, faithful is how they often seem struck by the magic of their songs in much the same way as their fans. Five cuts in, they stumbled across the interior sorcery inside "Cursed Diamond," causing a few of us to raise a churchlike hand towards them. It would not be the last time they inspired this tiny reach for grace in a night that blossomed into a quietly potent salute to being alive and surviving the many miles behind us, slightly worse for wear but infinitesimally wiser.

Hold me baby
Hold me girl
And I will laugh with you
If you want me to
Roll me in your splendor
I'll envy your surrender
And show you victory

Walking in, one couldn't be sure what was on tap given the casino setting and crazy early 7:30 p.m. start time. It didn't take long to figure out they had no intention of "Hard To Handling" the mixed crowd of portly seniors, dreadlock jammers, loud shirted out-of-towners with big diamond rings, pretty young things and aging classic rock traditionalists. "Remedy," "Jealous Again" and any of the other FM staples never made an appearance. The Crowes have reached a place where they're gonna play what they wanna play, wherever they might find themselves.

Luther Dickinson :: 04.25 :: Tahoe
The result, at least at this show, was a strong level of enthusiasm for the task at hand. With guitarist Luther Dickinson and MacDougal still fully settling into their massive catalog, the others seem to be enjoying just seeing what stamp the new boys will put on things. While there's been mumbling (read: endless bitching) on the Crowes message boards about some of these changes, notably the piano solo on "Wiser Time," the sharp degree of difference in MacDougal and Dickinson's approaches to many pieces is invigorating, at least to open minded listeners and clearly the band itself. Both guys never resort to old tricks or preexisting licks because it's all pretty damn new to them. On "Downtown Money Waster," Dickinson's slide attack alternated between pleasant meanness and bayou skip, and MacDougal banged his piano like a man who'd taken a few rotgut shots AND a blow or two to the head. Together, they gave the song a rollicking, off-kilter sway that worked, just not in the same way it has in the past.

Outside of a little rust on their locomotion, there was nothing wrong with the first few tunes but the base chemicals didn't fully intermingle until "Cursed Diamond," but once they were foaming nicely the light behind their eyes twinkled visibly, Chris Robinson standing in the middle of the instrumental fulmination, smiling and drinking it in. It's no crime to be turned on by your own band. Shit, I hope every musician is. If it don't float your boat you can hardly expect anyone else to rise with you. So, then, as the kids say, it was on. For pure rock 'n' roll, it's hard to imagine it getting better than The Black Crowes when they fully inhabit this shared being they create together. The shell of their compositions is strong but when they pump in muscle and motion in the way they did in Lake Tahoe the world dances a little harder, a little longer, a little looser.

In my 80+ Crowes shows I find there's always one person I gravitate towards more than the others. For reasons hard to pin down, they are engaged in a way that unlocks the music for me and helps me be fully present. It's never premeditated and usually the connection happens fast. This time, during "Sting Me," it was Rich Robinson, in strong voice and playing guitar with incendiary invention, that became my North Star. It's impossible for us in the stalls to guess at why one night a musician seems more connected to their work than others but the determination and downright joy Rich brought to bear here was bloody intoxicating. The cry and passion of his solos on "Thorn In My Pride" and "Nonfiction" stirred emotions and reaffirmed his love for their music in a way one felt in their bones.

The Black Crowes :: 04.25 :: Tahoe
The whole band seemed to be having fun. There was a lot of eye contact and smiles, but also a fair share of tight-lipped concentration. So good is everyone up there right now that one senses no one wants to be the guy who drops the ball. As they curve into a spacious jam or land hard into a final chorus, there's the patter of metaphorical feet pounding to keep in the pack, the kind of breathless rush one associates with The Beatles sprinting London streets in A Hard Day's Night. This is not the tightest lineup the Crowes have ever had, not yet, but there's a great deal of pleasure in their loose march towards total synchronicity.

Before "God's Got It," Chris said, "When you get that good feeling there's only one place you can go – the man with the big, round bass drum." With that, Gorman moved up front, marching band drum slung over his shoulders, and took us all the way into the chapel. Anyone teetering at the doorway was either all in at this point or making for the parking lot. The perfect mix of sincerity and snark, "God's Got It" is a cynic's hymn that can also work for believers. Inside a casino, singing about the Lord's bounty, the almighty dollar included, was a funny juxtaposition that was easily smoothed over with whiskey and beer. Sin and salvation are both pretty tasty.

The night began with the benediction of "Movin' On Down The Line" ("It's alright, sisters/ It's alright, brothers") and concluded with a prayer (an aching, beautiful reading of Dylan's "Forever Young"). Just on the basis of the music – the growing maturity of Warpaint tracks like "Wounded Bird" and "Oh, Josephine," their growing connection as players and the endless reach inside their catalog and those of others – it was a really satisfying couple of hours. Still, people moaned.

Without any of the big hits or readily identifiable covers, a percentage of the crowd seemed miffed when the lights came up. A woman behind me bellowed, "Ah come on, no 'Hard To Handle'? What gives?" Folks can desire the Crowes to be whatever they want but this is who they are. They are making the music they want to make with the people they want to make it with, period. Dig it, don't dig it, whatever, but there's a lot here to love if you open yourself up to the changes. If audiences give their music half as much attention and care as they're putting into it right now then it's hard to imagine them being disappointed. Then again, I'm feeling uncharacteristically optimistic after this show.

Now don't look back, my wounded bird
There's nothing for you here
Need no wings
Just set your mind to fly

04.25.08 :: Harrah's South Shore Room :: Lake Tahoe, NV
Movin' On Down The Line, Sting Me, Under A Mountain, Evergreen, Cursed Diamond, Poor Elijah/Tribute To Johnson (Medley), Oh, Josephine, Downtown Money Waster, Thorn In My Pride, God's Got It, Heavy, Nonfiction, Wiser Time, Wounded Bird
Encore: Don't Do It, Forever Young

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[Published on: 5/2/08]

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Him starstarstarstarstar Sat 5/3/2008 07:17AM
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Steller Photos !

MartinHalo Sat 5/3/2008 07:39AM
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Cook should be getting fitted for some book shoes... I would think a lot of people would kill to see a hard cover on the band and who better to pen it.

nsafay Sat 5/3/2008 04:03PM
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Massive catalogue? I don't think so. Looks like fun though. Anywhere Luther is you know it'll be good.

bigfro Sun 5/4/2008 03:47AM
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Black Crowes kick Ass. They do have alot of good tunes. There new album is muchbetter than last 3 but even those have a few good tunes each. I say when you can play five nights in a row for 2 sets and not have to repeat a song if you don't want to is pretty MASSIVE. Stop parsing nsafay, give credit where it is due or put up your own massive catalog. Just simmer down

nsafay Sun 5/4/2008 10:32AM
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Wow. I'll give credit when and where I feel. I think Phish or Panic regarding a "massive" catalogue. Even Luther said he felt less daunted learning the Crowes stuff when he took a look at Panic's list right here on jambase. Ballzagna.

Marcsmall Sun 5/4/2008 01:31PM
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Definitely one of the last real Rock and Roll bands around. Chris Robinson, while he may be a jackass, has an amazing Rock/Blues voice, much in the same respect as Jagger and Robert Plant. Luther is one of the best around at what he does, and their new album ain't bad. Southern Harmony and their first album were just great, at a time when most music was complete garbage. I will see these guys over many of these soul-less jambands or "jamtronica" bands who are around these days.

willydog Sun 5/4/2008 04:39PM
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Cook got this right...the Cursed Diamond was the lift off. The Nonfiction was stellar and Luther....did I mention Luther. This band is getting better and better and it won't be long into their massive tour this year that this will be a 2 set band. All hail Rock and roll.

Chaloupka starstarstarstarstar Mon 5/5/2008 08:17AM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstar Mon 5/5/2008 09:43AM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

the lighting looks as crappy as widespreads lights.

Tallest_1 Mon 5/5/2008 10:05AM
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nsafay, I haven't researched Phish, but I've checked with Panic, and as far as original material goes, the Crowes have performed more self penned tunes live than the panic. Check Crowesbase against a list of Panic originals, and they've got them beat. Just the facts!

AZ~*Droo* starstarstarstarstar Mon 5/5/2008 12:06PM
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"the lighting looks as crappy as widespreads lights"

haha yeah those pictures dont show the lighting very well, huh? but beleive it or not its actually CK5 doin the lighting for the crowes now!

KarenABQ starstarstarstarstar Mon 5/5/2008 12:54PM
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Great pics! God I love these guys!

kandrokitis starstarstarstarstar Mon 5/5/2008 12:56PM
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The new album is awesome. Seeing these guys for the first time this July. Can't wait. If anybody lives in PA and hasn't been to Penn's Peak before, I suggest you check it out. It's a beautiful venue with awesome sound. Luther Dickinson rules.

nsafay Mon 5/5/2008 01:48PM
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Cool. I do see 9 pages for the Crowes catalogue and 23 for Panic's though. Whatever. Didn't mean to cause any unease.

bigchris starstarstarstarstar Mon 5/5/2008 09:35PM
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great pics Josh, good review too! The Crowes are on a new rise with Luther on board. Can't wait to see them at the Fillmore again soon. ROCK!

nuke_ticketbastard starstarstarstar Tue 5/6/2008 06:53AM
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"its to late to play it safe so , let it all ride"

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} Wed 5/7/2008 04:12AM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

chris robinson is ugly as hell.

pbandJAM7 Tue 5/13/2008 08:15AM
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but he did score kate hudson. what a champ!