With diminished choices come lowered expectations and a heightened gratitude for any replica of an original. The Black Crowes, fronted by swaggering bluesman/crooner Chris Robinson, are like a really good cover band … of an entire era. Sounding like one of about a million late ’60s/early ’70s bands, in our contemporary musical landscape they have become a unique act – a time capsule creature of that most rare, and perhaps even mythological, sound: rock ’n’ roll.
Don’t get me wrong. Made up of a killer drummer, a great keyboardist, two fuzz and feedback-friendly guitarists and a couple of black female back up vocalists, the Black Crowes are certainly talented. Very much a jam band, they are at their best when riffing off each other with solos.
Robinson is a perfect showman: all tight pants, long hair, mic-stand raising and hip shaking, he’s a reverend touched by the hands of the rock gods. At its best, Robinson’s voice catches just enough throat-scratch to shine through in southern-fried bellows. At its worst, it’s just plain nasal.
Here’s the problem. With the exception of a crowd-pleasing “Remedy,” the songs – from “Twice As Hard” and “Cursed Diamond” to “Wiser Time” and “Halfway to Everywhere”– blend into one unmelodic, rock homage blur. Nothing stands out. Nothing is memorable.
But the crowd – mostly early 30s professionals reliving their good old college days – cheered and swayed with nostalgic abandon. The enthusiasm was depressing to anyone who listens to real bluesy rock; it points to the utmost scarcity of such bands, once so present, in our contemporary soundscape.