Chris Robinson Brotherhood Hypnotizes Cleveland Crowd
by: Dave Swanson
Jerry Garcia might be long gone, but his children are always looking for a new dwelling. Enter Chris Robinson, once (and future?) lead singer for the Black Crowes, one of the purest rock and roll bands to emerge in the last 20-odd years. Their take on ‘Sticky Fingers’-era Stones and Gram Parsons’ ghost was always a thing of beauty.
With the Crowes on another indefinite hiatus (“Best not to wake the bear while it’s hibernating,’” Robinson recently told Uncut), Chris is sailing head-on into his own solo trip. Chris Robinson Brotherhood takes off where his first solo album ‘New Mud Earth’ left off, mutating country rock and jam band ramblings into its own being. Flying Burrito Brothers meets Grateful Dead with a bit of the Band, if you need a more defined connection.
A visibly — shall we say, ‘altered?’ — Robinson and cohorts took flight (puns ahoy!) at 9pm at Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom for the second of a two night stand, and carried the seemingly floating crowd on its way for over two hours. Starting with a very casual, dare we say, elegance, the band launched into ‘Tomorrow Blues’ from their new album, ‘Big Moon Ritual.’ Lead guitarist Neal Casal has his own engaging style, while occasionally giving a nod or three to Jerry Garcia, whose spirit was certainly in attendance.
Robinson’s vocals were as powerful and soulful as ever, and it should also be noted that Chris is no slouch on the six-string either. The two guitars blended together hypnotically at times, while the rhythm section of drummer George Sluppick and bassist Mark Dutton were the glue that held it all together. ‘Rosalie,’ also from ‘Big Moon Ritual,’ was a real highlight of the set, as was the sole nod to the Black Crowes with an energetic ‘I Ain’t Hiding,’ from their last studio album ‘Before The Frost…’
About half the CRB material is, for lack of a more unique tag, psychedelic-painted country rock. That’s ‘country rock’ as in Gram Parson’s brand of ‘Cosmic American Music.’ Some beautiful two and three-part harmonies were front and center on much of this material, which really elevated things nicely. This, we think, is where the band shines and should ride most often.
The other side of their coin is another story. They get into this “funky” (pronounced “Caucasian”) jam band vibe that really falls flat. In fact, it makes some of us (no names please) want to lash out and cause random violence on the twirling dancers. God bless ‘em…they are truly digging it, so what do we know?! This kind of music has been known to make skin actually crawl. Their set seems to be split half-and-half between the country and the funky, so it’s up for grabs who wins out in the end, but the crowd sure loved it all.
A splendid cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues’ was possibly the highlight of the show, and another cover, Three Dog Night’s ‘Never Been To Spain,’ was a nice surprise as well. Three Dog Night…well alright! A couple of songs from ‘New Earth Mud,’ ‘Silver Car’ and ‘Sunday Sound,’ finished off their set, while an encore of Jerry Garcia’s ‘Sugaree’ left ‘em wanting more.
Bands like Chris Robinson Brotherhood create ultra-loyal followings who just eat up the whole vibe and sound of the band, and whether it’s your cup of laced tea or not is another matter. What these guys do, they do very well. As we left the venue, the cool fresh air helped disintegrate the aroma of ye old head shoppe, and by the time we were in the car, luckily equipped with a tape of ‘Never Mind The Bollocks,’ all was becoming clear once again. Peace on you, hippies!
Chris Robinson Brotherhood Set List:
1. Tomorrow Blues
2. Someday Past The Sunset
3. Tulsa Yesterday
4. Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues
5. Little Lizzie Mae
6. Star Or Stone
7. Do Right Woman, Do Right Man
8. Vibration & Light Suite
9. Saturday Night in Oak Grove, Louisiana
11. Tumbleweed In Eden
12. Never Been To Spain
14. I Ain’t Hiding
15. Silver Car
16. Sunday Sound