Words by: Dennis Cook | Images by: John Margaretten
(Photos) Chris Robinson Brotherhood :: 12.12.11-12.13.11 :: Great American Music Hall :: San Francisco, CA
(Review) Chris Robinson Brotherhood :: 12.15.11 :: Great American Music Hall :: San Francisco, CA
The CRB plays their final show of 2011 on New Year’s Eve at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach, CA before heading into the studio to cut their debut album in early 2012.
Full photo gallery below review!
The Chris Robinson Brotherhood is a different kind of band. This notion leapt into my noggin a number of times at the Great American Music Hall, but most assuredly during the opening number, a bouncing cover of Hank Ballard & The Midnighters’ “Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go” that made one’s limbs feel filled with soda pop. Not many, particularly on the jam/festival circuit, are dipping back so enthusiastically and effectively to rock’s ground zero in the 1950s and 1960s, and the CRB does it with such obvious glee that they’re inspiring a newfangled sock hop at their shows.
|CRB by John Margaretten|
The spinners, the dancers and the quiet-smiling shufflers all got it right away this night, whether they knew Chris and his crew were throwing tendrils back to rock’s earthy roots. The feel of this band is ridiculously natural after nearly 120 shows this year. While the man helming this enterprise may call it “a little self-indulgent” (as he did with a grin backstage this evening), the truth is we’re witnessing Robinson at his most organic with all his predilections and passions laid bare. The Black Crowes are a push-me-pull-me thing that takes a nuanced Dr. Doolittle mindset to keep on course, whereas the Brotherhood is barroom bred, Grateful Dead dappled, uncut musical enjoyment at its most easygoing. It’s infectious, as the growing audiences in 2011 attest, and frankly, kinda brave to hoist just what he likes up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes. As this show and the many behind it proclaimed in action and vibe, the music is the thing and if you wanna gather ‘round you’re most welcome to do so. And if this isn’t the freak flag you wanna rally under, well, no sweat and peace on ya.
The Grateful Dead reference isn’t a casual one. This feels a lot like seventies Dead at times, down to the “shit, we’re as surprised as you where this one traveled” expressions on the faces of Robinson, Neal Casal (guitar, vocals), Adam MacDougall (keys, vocals), George Sluppick (drums) and Mark Dutton (bass, vocals) that cropped up during jams and between tune bridges - Casal, in particular, seems to be tapping into hitherto unknown shredder instincts in this band that are a nice contrast to the artful brevity he’s usually exhibited in his guitar work. So it was zero surprise to see Robinson mates Phil Lesh show up the previous evening and Bob Weir to saunter out this evening. And by God, Bobby and the lads put their backs into Willie Dixon’s “The Seventh Son,” Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights, Big City,” and Dead staples “New Speedway Boogie” and “New Minglewood Blues.” CRB brought out the rough tongued horndog in Weir – his principle occupation is stealing women from their men - and the music was all the better for it, stirring up a rougher, rowdier side than most Furthur shows do. And that was just the first set, kids, which also included the increasingly stellar group version of older Robinson solo joint “Reflections On A Broken Mirror” and chest-swelling CRB standard “Star Or Stone”.
|Chris Robinson by John Margaretten|
The second set, labeled the “Set Eight” on Crowesbase, condensed what all the road work and growing empathy in this group has produced this year. What started as a lark that might run a few shows with a band that knew about a dozen tunes at their first concert has turned into a real band, and one felt that in the muscular second set kickoff of “40 Days,” the sincere soar of “Girl On The Mountain,” the warming complexities of the “Vibration & Light Suite,” the dance-til-ya-drop swing of “I Ain’t Hiding” and “Ride,” and the common folk uplift of “Sunday Sound.” The encore brought out standout CRB original “Rosalee,” which cemented the feeling that this Brotherhood is an entity apart from what Chris does in his day job that is wholly winning in their own ways, a callback to hirsute road warriors past that resonates with today’s audiences in a most charming and satisfying way.
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