Full disclosure here, I listened to all of one song from the Black Crowes’ new album, Warpaint (released on their own Silver Arrow Records), before attending their show at the Riviera in Chicago. So, going into the show, I didn’t know what to expect. Apparently the album was panned by Maxim – before they ever listened to it – and the show didn’t sell out, so that had me even more worried. But, I’ve been a fan ever since the early days, so I decided it was time I saw them live. I wasn’t disappointed. Although it’s been nearly a decade since we heard from the Black Crowes, it was as if they never left.
Before the show started, the unmistakable scent of pathcouli incense filled the room, courtesy of the band. Then the lights went down, they stepped on stage and I found myself enveloped in a cloud of pot. The atmosphere instantly took me back to my early rocking days and I found myself in a pleasant fit of nostalgia. Perhaps aided by the THC in the air, I grinned wide as Chris Robinson’s distinct voice belted out the first song of a two-hour set and he started posing, emphasizing lyrics with that strange, endearing body language reminiscent of Mick Jagger.
Like I said, I don’t know Warpaint so most of the songs were new to me. Most of the time, when I see a concert filled with unknown songs it’s difficult to get in the groove. But not this time. There’s an aura about the Black Crowes that just doesn’t go away, no matter what they’re playing. They did play some old stuff, but not much. Just fine by me.
And, along with the new record comes a new addition to the lineup. Guitarist Luther Dickinson joins the band, coming from the North Mississippi All-Stars. And it’s a powerful addition. His style blends perfectly with the band, but he also stands out as an incredibly talented musician. He’s presence is clearly felt and showcased, but blended so well that you would think he was with the band from the beginning.
Which brings up an interesting point: It’s explicitly clear that founding brothers Chris and Rich Robinson (pictured) still have problems with each other. During the entire set, they kept their distance and I don’t think made eye contact even once. And that’s a shame, because it could be the one thing that continues to hold them back.
Even so, I walked out of there with a rekindled flame for the Black Crowes, and a solid belief that, as long as they stay together and make music, the more they will cement their status as one of the iconic bands of the South, if not the country. The video below is from the show, of “Whoa Mule” from Warpaint. The second video (partial) showcases Luther Dickinson’s tremendous talent.
Warpaint is a declaration of our soulful independence – Chis Robinson