The Black Crowes’ new album won’t released officially until Monday, but fans hearing their Stuck in Utopia tour this week are getting a healthy preview of the new music.
The Black Crowes’ new album won’t released officially until Monday, but fans hearing their Stuck in Utopia tour this week are getting a healthy preview of the new music. Wednesday’s 95-minute show before a sold-out crowd of 1,500 at the Cape Cod Melody Tent in Hyannis heard six songs from the new CD, “Before the Frost ... Until the Freeze.”
The new material is essentially right in the Crowes’ sweet spot of rousing gospel-tinged blues-rock. The more important news is that the newer members of the sextet have been assimilated into the lineup with ease. Guitarist Luther Dickinson and keyboardist Adam MacDougall mesh so well with bassist Sven Pipien, drummer Steve Gorman, and the brothers Robinson, singer Chris, and guitarist Rich, that it would be difficult to convince anyone they weren’t all present at the band’s formation 25 years ago.
In reality, both joined not quite two years ago, and if MacDougall seemed to stay mostly in the background Wednesday night, Dickinson’s sizzling guitar gave the band as potent a two-lead-guitarist attack as its ever had. Dickinson played more slide guitar, but Rich Robinson also had his own slide moments. The two guitarists traded leads and solos, not so much dueling as deftly complementing each other.
The Black Crowes opened with two songs off the forthcoming album, beginning with the rambling gospel-blues of “Good Morning Captain.” Rich Robinson, 40, wore a black sport coat with gold pinstripes over his jeans and black T-shirt, while brother Chris, 42, was the epitome of laid back in a brown T-shirt, jeans and a turquoise amulet around his neck. “Kept My Soul,” from the new disc was an amiably lurching blues-rocker, with Chris Robinson singing passionately about the redemption he never quite seems to find, while Rich added a subtle but powerfully moving guitar solo.
“Wounded Bird,” from last year’s “Warpaint” album, kicked up the tempo a bit, with MacDougall’s swirling organ figure driving the band. Dickinson unveiled a mandolin to stellar effect on the new “Shine Along,” as Rich Robinson played slide on what became a rollicking country/gospel theme. Both Robinson brothers donned acoustic guitars for “Fork in the River,” yet another new tune, with Dickinson’s slide resembling pedal steel, in an arrangement that suggested old-time country soul.
Perhaps the most memorable moment was the Crowes’ cover of Bob Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country,” which began as easy rolling blues, with the Robinson boys trading verses, and ramped up into fiery rock ’n’ roll.
There was another keepsake moment, as Dickinson, and both Robinsons, quoted Traffic’s old “Dear Mr Fantasy” in their instrumental intro to “Oh, Sweet Nuthin’” That song featured a Rich Robinson lead vocal, surely one of the band’s under-utilized weapons, and the choruses consisted of lovely three-part harmonies from theRobinsons and Pipien.
The Black Crowes were nine songs into their 13-song set before doing one of their obvious chestnuts, but “Jealous Again” got the throng on its feet and shout-singing along anyway. “Oh Josephine” from last year’s CD kept the communal vibe going, although in a more laid-back ballad mode. The rocking fervor of “Remedy” seemed like a set-closer, but the sextet charged right into the new “I Ain’t Hiding,” a blistering up-tempo soul-rocker that ended in a blaze of Chris Robinson harmonica.
The lone encore, as curfew loomed, was also a neat choice, the funky “Tied Up and Swallowed.”
Fans who can’t make tonight’s show at Bank of America Pavilion in Boston – with Levon Helm added to the night’s bill – can still catch this Crowes tour, as the band has a Sept. 16 date at Lupo’s in Providence.
Openers Truth & Salvage Company performed a very appealing half-hour set, and when Melody Tent GM Vince Longo compared the sextet’s sound to the Flying Burrito Brothers, he was spot on. They are worth getting to the Pavilion early tonight if you go.
THE BLACK CROWES With Truth & Salvage Co., at Cape Cod Melody Tent, Wednesday night. Also at Bank of America Pavilion, Boston, tonight.
The Patriot Ledger