Monday night, Chris and Rich Robinson brought their southern rock and roll swagger back to Red Rocks Amphitheatre for the third time in a year. Playing exactly to the date of the opening two-night stand at Red Rocks last year on the Shake Your Money Maker 30th Anniversary Tour, the band once again gave it their all to those who were more than happy to come out for the Monday night party the Robinson brothers threw in the continued revival of The Black Crowes.
Since July of 2021, the standard format for the band has revolved around the celebration of the ten track album that put them on every rock and roll radar everywhere followed by deep cuts and fan favorites. Monday night would prove to be different in a few ways. First, it was the final stop on the North American tour before the band flew the roost and migrated across the pond for a two month romp around Europe, Japan, and Australia. Second, the setlist would deviate significantly from the aforementioned routine and take on a true Black Crowes’ show, full of surprises, covers, and enough energy to power a small city, or a large amphitheater if you will.
The night got started with a one-two punch with two tracks from the band’s The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. With “No Speak No Slave” followed by “Sting Me”, the group lit the fuse with an inferno that would burn for nearly two hours.
“Twice As Hard” got everyone singing and it was clear that the time on the road had done nothing but tighten this band’s engine as hands were thrown in the air as so many on those magical sandstone steps belted out every word and the band fed off of the great energy.
“Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution” was up next and, from a relative standpoint, would be the first rarity of the night. With only 11 renditions of the tune played since the beginning of 2021, this rendition fired on all cylinders and carried that southern rock vibe into the sky. With great slide work from Rich Robinson and tasty licks from Isaiah Mitchell, as well as ivory runs by newest member Erik Deutsch on the keys, this one had a flair that kept the energy reeling.
The next tune was introduced by Chris as “a perfect little love song about perfume and valium.” With that, the strut of “Under the Mountain” got under way. In the mid-nineties, this one got lots of stage time, but has only been recently revived, this outing being its third in 2022 and prior to July, it hadn’t been shared with the world since 2013. It contained all the power of its early days and sounded well-rehearsed.
Taking a moment for everyone to breathe, “Descending” showed that the talent of these musicians isn’t just about being balls to the wall. This melancholy number let Chris’ vocal range be seen and the soulful side of the strings be heard. This was the first rendition of the song for 2022 and the first since September of 2021. The ending contained a beautiful piano outro by Deutsch that had everyone swaying and smiling silently.
“Hard To Handle” brought the energy back up and got the whole place dancing. Chris often turned the microphone to the crowd and let the thousands belt out the all too familiar lyrics. Short, sweet, and superb, seeing this tune at Red Rocks epitomized the magic of the sandstone synagogue.
Dedicating the next one “to all the lovers here tonight”, the biggest bust out of the evening was up next in the dark staccato of “Lickin’”. Not played since 2010 and only played 5 times since 2005, this rarity off the Lions album certainly showed the winged brothers Robinson were seeing this night just as special as those souls who made the trek up the mountain to catch it. “Horsehead” was dedicated to “all the bliss seekers out there” and yet again, this one has only popped up in the setlist ten times over the last year and before that it had been shelved since 2010. The gritty thickness of these two tunes back-to-back had many reveling in that 70’s vibe of loud amps, distorted guitars, and the power of rock and roll.
“She Talks to Angels” showcased Chris’ emotional depth as Rich gave over his talent on the unobscured strings of his acoustic. Following band intros, the octet continued their southern gospel with another spiritual in “Thorn in my Pride”. Brian Griffith’s drum fills here were loose and on time, thundering the soul of the music, the band, and audience, giving everyone over to conviction. The crescendo of this one melted many a face and contained a breakdown in the middle that had Chris scatting as Sven Pipen rattled the continental divide before Chris wielded the harmonica for his musical contribution which just lit the place up. The tension and release was incredible and when the band hit on the final lyrics, hands and arms went all akimbo with ecstasy.
Cover number two of the night had bassist Sven Pipen leading the way with the all too familiar bassline of The Undisputed Truth’s “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”. Swirled in Leslie, Pipen, Griffith, and Deutsch carried the root as Chris took everyone to church. The sparkling souls of Leslie Graham and Mackenzie Adams infused their vocals into this one, making anyone within earshot dance with a little more swagger and strut their stuff just a little bit harder.
Wrapping the opened roof room in warmth, the powerful “Wiser Time” was bestowed upon the crowd, as yet another example of the Crowe’s canon that checks all the boxes: great writing, incredible structure, and a feeling that encompasses tradition as well as innovation.
To close the set, the powerhouses “Jealous Again” and “Remedy” sent everyone into the ride home with a smile, a kick in their step, and a lasting memory of yet another great rock and roll evening on the Rocks with some of the best talent in the business.
For the encore, The Rolling Stones’ “Rocks Off” got the treatment and although it was the last piece of the night, it was certainly performed as no afterthought.
From start to finish, the band gave it their all. Everyone came out of the gates guns blazing and laid out their last night stateside as one for the record books. For anyone who thought the Robinson reunion was little more than a cash grab, this night proved once again that this statement couldn’t be farther from the truth. No one sat on their laurels or mailed it in and each tune was played with passion, creativity, and vigor. At the end of two hours, no one walked out thinking that it could have been better or that they were seeing the end of something. Moreso, from those overheard conversations as we all descended ramps, many were talking about what 2023 would hold. For one patron, this night was one of 18 he had caught on the tour and the genuine joy he exuded talking about all that he had seen and heard made this writer realize that as magical as Red Rocks is, what the Brothers of a Feather have is what often makes this hallowed ground spiritual.