Words by: Chad Berndtson
Images by: Andrew Blackstein
As The Crow Flies :: 04.17.18
Capitol Theatre :: Port Chester, NY
Capitol Theatre :: Port Chester, NY
View Andrew’s photos following Chad’s review.
One of the more intriguing tour announcements of 2018 was for As The Crow Flies, a supergroup comprising Chris Robinson, his Chris Robinson Brotherhood bandmates Adam MacDougall and Tony Leone, former Black Crowes sidemen and all-around protean musicians Andy Hess and Audley Freed, and blues/soul wunderkind Marcus King.
Its stated intentions were direct: Chris wanted to sing Black Crowes songs with a band of aces, guaranteeing a “soulful rockin’ funky good time.” And at opening night of a 17-date tour in Port Chester, that’s exactly what the six-man lineup served: two hours of mostly Crowes, heavy on snarling guitars, pointed keys and hot-boogie rhythms, with Robinson’s classic howl front-and-center. It was the band’s first public show, and admittedly it often sounded like it, but you did better the less you overthought it.
Robinson does do a handful of Crowes-associated tunes with CRB, and The Magpie Salute, which features a healthy complement of former Crowes and is heavy on Crowes classics in its sets, is on the road and thriving. But this band scratches an especially pronounced itch on those for whom “Chris Robinson vocals” and “Black Crowes songs” are inextricable.
As the Crow Flies not surprisingly favored Crowes warhorses, from the opening “Remedy” straight through “Sting Me,” “Jealous Again,” “Nonfiction,” “She Talks To Angels,” “My Morning Song” and “Twice As Hard,” all in the opening night set. It was easy to pick out missing things: backup singers adding oomph to the choruses, guitarists who knew the material well enough to torture it. But it was just as easy to pick out things that worked, and those were by and large the monster jamming vehicles — “Wiser Time,” “Thorn In My Pride,” the inspired, 2014-era Crowes collage of “Hard To Handle > Hush > Hard To Handle,” — where Freed, King and MacDougall got to relax, breathe, and then friggin’ execute, with solos to a man that were soulful, vicious and/or deeply felt.
It was mainly a Crowes show, with, in Crowes style, covers that seemed to suit the band and the mood: Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” famously covered by Tina Turner, the hippie-era anthem “Almost Cut My Hair” from Crosby Stills & Nash, the aforementioned “Hush,” and, perhaps most interestingly, “I’d Love to Change the World,” an angsty rocker from the Ten Years After catalog, a wrestling match between portent and resignation.
Me, I could have used a little more Marcus and Audley — it took until “By Your Side,” nearly 20 minutes into the set, for the first signs of “world class musician oomph” to take over for “cover band.” I could have used a little more energy; at times it felt like only Chris, center stage in full shaman/dervish/preacher mode, was trying to coax the magic out of the songs, feeling their angst. But I’m thinking I’m quibbling; the tour will expand, the songs will deepen, the Crowes thing will announce itself and stay present, long after the Black Crowes themselves decided to put it away. I’ll accept that Chris asked no expectations of this band and delivered something tasty and adequate.
Set: Remedy, Sting Me, Twice As Hard, By Your Side, I Can’t Stand The Rain, Nonfiction, Good Friday > Almost Cut My Hair, Wiser Time, She Talks To Angels, Thorn In My Pride, My Morning Song, Jealous Again, Hard To Handle > Hush > Hard To Handle
Encore: I’d Love To Change The World
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