The Black Crowes’ Chris & Rich Robinson Bring Brothers Of A Feather To Boston: Photos & Review
Chris Robinson and Rich Robinson brought their Brothers Of A Feather tour to Boston’s Brighton Music Hall on Wednesday for an evening of all-acoustic The Black Crowes tunes before a crowd that sold out in minutes. Just last year, the conventional wisdom was that decades of hostility and ill will essentially guaranteed we’d never see the Brothers Robinson share the stage again. Yet Amoricans in the Bay State aren’t only seeing them share the stage again, but in two different capacities. This short, intimate run of shows is a prelude to the heavily publicized Black Crowes tour that has them performing 1990’s Shake Your Money Maker in its entirety with the backing of a different lineup than was on the record.
When you factor in a damning tell-all autobiography from Crowes former drummer/co-founder Steve Gorman, the mix of dirty laundry and reunion fatigue might be enough to turn some fans off. However, their acoustic pairing at Brighton Music Hall was able to side step the narratives surrounding the upcoming Summer tour and really put a spotlight on the material itself and the unique format it was being presented in.
The night kicked off with “Jealous Again,” followed by “Twice as Hard,” both off their 1990 debut, before segueing into a take on “Wiser Time” off 1994’s Amorica that morphed the Black Crowes jam vehicle into an opportunity for some beautiful 12-string playing and vocal harmonies. “Good Friday” let Chris show off his harmonica skills and the call and response chorus of “Soul Singing” proved to be tailor made for this format. Given that the pending Summer tour is formatted for mass appeal, it was a pleasant surprise to hear “Oh Josephine,” off 2008’s Warpaint. It’s no B-Side but when you’re putting so much emphasis on the hits, it certainly constitutes a deep cut.
The singular highlight of the night was hands down their version of “Descending” that allowed Rich to rearrange the shimmering lead piano work of late Crowes keyboardist Eddie Harsch into a guitar part that rose to the occasion. More than any Crowes tune, “Descending” was uniquely identified as an “Eddie Tune” and after his death, the song took on a newer, special meaning for the Crowes fanbase.
The proper set wrapped up with an extra base hit of “She Talks to Angels” into “Remedy.” They’re two of the most popular Crowes songs and the latter easily had the loudest crowd participation of the night. Some of the less prominent songs proved to be the most adaptable to acoustic arrangements but you can’t fault a band for giving the crowd what they want.
For anyone who read Gorman’s book, or even followed the nasty back and forth between Chris and Rich over the past few years, there is plenty to be cynical about regarding the Black Crowes reunion and the skepticism of their fans and critics is more than fair. But while this wasn’t a Black Crowes concert, Chris and Rich Robinson proved some of their skeptics wrong. To Chris’s credit, while he no longer sings with the ferocity he did back in ’92, he can still hit all the notes without any sense of strain. As for Rich, his playing was pristine and his rearrangements of older songs felt completely natural. While it was hard to gauge how much fun they were really having up on the stage, they were shooting each other communicative glances throughout the entire evening and even exchanged some on-stage banter. This was not Pink Floyd’s 2005 “reunion” at Live 8 where Roger Waters and David Gilmour had practiced with different bands and simply shared a stage while playing their own parts.
If anyone came to Brighton Music Hall hoping for some insight into how The Black Crowes reunion will play out this Summer, they were out of luck. Replacing founding members with new musicians is likely to impact the dynamics in one way or another, but since this wasn’t a Black Crowes concert, those questions were left at the door. What we did learn is that as Brothers of a Feather, Chris and Rich Robinson can play nice together.
Fan-Shot Videos (Captured by Jay Rose)
She Talks To Angels
Set: Jealous Again, Twice As Hard, Wiser Time, Thorn In My Pride, Cursed Diamond, Oh Josephine, Good Friday, Hotel Illness, Descending, Soul Singing, She Talks To Angels, Remedy