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Concert Review: The Black Crowes at the Orpheum Theater

By Jeff Berman

"Are you having a good time?" Black Crowes’ frontman Chris Robinson asked the question between every song when the Crowes visited the Orpheum Theatre in Boston for a two-day visit on February 23-24.

In support of their new album, "By Your Side," the Crowes aimed to please, and they certainly took care of that. I had seen them live three times, dating back to 1993, after releasing "The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion," which is probably the band’s premier album (not to slight "By Your Side," which is definitely solid).

I just made it to my balcony seat before the light’s went down, and before I could even put my coat down, lead guitarist (and brother of singer Chris) Rich Robinson cranked out the familiar strains of "Remedy," and the roof nearly shook off the Orpheum. "Remedy" has become a favorite of the band to open with, and it sizzled, with Chris playing to the audience, and belting out the familiar "I need a remedy, oh yeah, for what is ailin’ me you see." Things stayed upbeat into the new rocker, "Go Faster," the opening track from "By Your Side," which slid into "Sting Me," another booming "Southern Harmony" rocker, which moved into "Thick n Thin" (from "Shake Your Money Maker").

Five solid, uptempo, signature Crowes’ staples got the wheels turning, and the band was free to slow it down with "Then She Said My Name," (from "By Your Side"), a soothing, lovey-dovey ballad, and got it going again with "Hotel Illness," followed by a mellow "Girl From A Pawnshop" (from "Three Snakes and One Charm"). "

A shining rendition of "Thorn In My Pride" was next, and then band was in perfect harmony, with a focused jam featuring some nice trading off of solos from Rich Robinson and new bassist Sven Pipien and drummer Steve Gorman. Chris Robinson busted out a ripping harmonica solo, which was a definite highlight of the show. "Black Moon Creeping" came out of "Thorn In My Pride," and it was pure Crowes’ power. "Black Moon Creeping" was strong and hard-hitting, and, like many Crowes’ tunes, it fits in well just about anywhere in their set. "Heavy," my personal favorite on "By Your Side," was up next and sounded great live.

The Black Crowes always play a bunch of their newer tunes when they are on tour, and often leave some beauties in the closet. I had heard a good mix until the point, and knew there would definitely be more "By Your Side" material to come. I didn’t mind, since I really love "By Your Side," but at that point of the evening I wanted to hear something which was ‘Old School Crowes." "Nebakanezer" ("Three Snakes and One Charm") was on tap, and it hit the spot thoroughly. "Nebakenezer" was followed by two more new ones, "Only A Fool" and "Go Tell The Congregation." Chris Robinson broke into "Go Tell The Congregation" with a quick spiel about how Thursday is the real beginning of the weekend, and, as things may gradually get uglier throughout the duration of the weekend, you must eventually "Go Tell The Congregation" on Sunday, and so be it-and they did. A gloomy "Nonfiction" from the vastly underrated "Amorica" was next, with the title track "By Your Side" next, and them an emotional "Jealous Again." Chris Robinson laid it down for all to hear, "Don’t you think I want to? Don’t you think I would? Don’t you think I’d love you, Baby, only if I could?"

After "Jealous Again," the band left the stage, with an encore coming up shortly. After a few minutes, the band returned and broke into "She Talks To Angels, "Hard To Handle," and "Virtue and Vice," to close things out. I would have been content with just "She Talks To Angels," but getting the always-rocking "Hard To Handle" and a moving new tune, "Virtue and Vice," I was more than pleased.

The Black Crowes are a band, which is constantly getting better, and it is apparent that they only continue to improve. Moving on a decade in the mainstream of popular music (90’s style), the Crowes are a band that likes to take chances and seldom disappoint. Their studio work is definitely worthy of a listener’s attention, but to truly appreciate this band is to see them perform live. It is clearly the raw Black Crowes’ live sound, which captures my attention. Loud and hard-hitting, their no-nonsense approach is clearly enticing and inviting, and, yes, Chris, did have a good time.