In November of 2019, Chris and Rich Robinson announced that in 2020, the two would reunite and bring the rock and roll force of The Black Crowes on a cross-country tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the group’s inaugural powerhouse album Shake Your Money Maker. The tour was to cover the continental United States and bring the southern love back to the fans who had been calling for a long-awaited reunion. The turbulence of the sibling relationship has been no secret among the musical world, so with the announcement of reconciliation and an accompanying tour of an album revered by both hard-core followers as well as casual listeners, it was no surprise that when tickets went on sale, night after night sold out almost immediately. As we all know the Shake Your Money Maker tour of 2020 never happened. As shows were rescheduled, postponed, and straight up canceled due to the global COVID pandemic, many wondered if the revived connection between Rich and Chris would last long enough to see their feathered dreams take flight once again and provide opportunity to witness the energy and drive of the album that had started it all and been a part of their personal soundtrack for three decades.
2020 came and went and no announcements were made calling for refunds so as the faithful stood by with fingers crossed, the flock entered 2021. As summer approached, the caw-ling came to fruition and the Brothers Robinson made good on their promise, setting out on the road at the tail end of July to deliver what most thought would be nothing more than wishful thinking.
Earlier this week, the tour made its midway stop at the revered Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado and brought fans to their feet once again during back-to-back sold-out nights. Although this was no surprise, what was surprising was the turn out for shows scheduled on a Sunday and Monday, revealing how much those in attendance weren’t just catching a show, but were taking advantage of what might never happen again and in such a special place. Speaking to fans before the show, it was apparent that many had traveled from out of state for the self-proclaimed once in a lifetime opportunity and none were found before, during or after with a regret or second thought about undertaking this pilgrimage.
Monday night’s show got started promptly at 7:30 pm with the hard driving opener Dirty Honey. This Los Angeles quartet wasted no time showing who they were to the audience and ticket holders across the venue appeared more than appeased with what they were hearing, many standing to their feet with a pumped fist and taking the sweet ride of this band on the rise.
Following the opener, the stage was transformed from its easily recognizable concrete slab with its sandstone background to a bar scene, equipped with wood floors, a full bar with a bartender in a three-piece suit, as well as a southern porch scene pulled directly for a Georgian shotgun house. As the lights dimmed, a number of bargoers made their way on stage and took their seats at stools, receiving libations from the proprietor of the establishment, and socializing with each other, occasionally turning to the crowd and lifting a drink in salutations to the onlookers. For those down close to the scene, it was easy to see that some of those getting served were the actual band members. Eventually, two twenty-somethings made their way to center stage, arriving at an illuminated jukebox. Peering through the window to make their selection, the two dropped their coins, pushed a few buttons, and cued up the Elmore James hit “Shake Your Money Maker”. After a few measures and a few more sips of the lips, the members at the bar pulled away from their compadres and took up their appropriate spots on stage under dim light.
From stage left, Rich Robinson stepped out under a solitary spotlight and bathed in crisp white light, picked the familiar introductory notes of “Twice as Hard”, the first track on Shake Your Money Maker, as 10000 patrons cheered on. When the band dropped in, nailing the timing exactly and launching the rock and roll event into drive, Chris Robinson, who had been sitting on the drum riser, hidden under a Black Crowes logoed parasol, pushed the prop to the sky, jumping to his feet and greeted the multitude with a familiar strut and Cheshire grin, acknowledging that this Monday night party was under way.
For almost two hours and a single set, the band not only ran through the entire inaugural album, performing it with the reverence it deserved, but also delivered a second half chockful of deep cuts and fan favorites without ever pausing or leaving the stage. Besides the performance of Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle”, the only cover of the night was the encore and came in the form of The Rolling Stone’s “It’s Only Rock and Roll”. By the time the finale closed, and the band took their bow under a standing ovation, it was clear that the group had rehearsed and made efforts to put this all together in the right way. No detail was left out and the vibe was like that of yesteryear when a young Atlanta band was tearing up and driving those around them into an ecstatic visceral state that can only be defined as the live wire electricity that runs through rock and roll you feel rather than hear.
Although some purists and naysayers balked at the idea of seeing the band’s return without all the original members, stating it wouldn’t be the same, one simple statement comes to mind: could have fooled me! It was no surprise that the Brothers of the Feather employed heavy hitters to round out the sound and it was great to see genuine exchange as equals among the cast rather than a hired gun dynamic supporting a showboating lead. Specifically, Isiah Mitchell on guitar is a great counterpart to Rich Robinson’s stylings and snaked his way between lead and rhythm with ease. He was regarded as “The Red Rocks Ripper” by Chris Robinson and at the night’s close, the moniker was well earned. Brian Griffin on the drums kept all the stringed pieces pulled in tight and kept the cadence moving effortlessly, all the while exuding the needed thunder to do the Crowes concoctions justice. Regarded as “looking scary, but being full of rainbows and unicorns”, Joel Robinow delivered all the southern charm of the keys. With his fills of B3 organ sounds spinning that Leslie to the piano solos and everything in between, there certainly was no word of anyone stating they wished they would have heard more out of him. Rounding out the southern sound and bringing that gospel dynamic home, Leslie Grant and Mackenzie Adams were the songbird choir in the rock and roll church.
The past aside, witnessing the chemistry between Rich and Chris again was invigorating and gave hope that the band might have more outings in the future instead of this tour being a one-off. The two shared smiles on stage and took opportunities to sing together often at the same mic. It was also apparent that neither have lost their spark for the stage and gave every bit of themselves from start to finish. In the end, justice was served by the Brothers Robinson, for themselves, the fans, and the true legacy that is The Black Crowes.