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The Black Crowes At The First Security Amphitheater

The Black Crowes At The First Security Amphitheater

Courtesy Josh Cheuse

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The Black Crowes
First Security Amphitheater
The Black Crowes Present: Shake Your Money Maker Tour
Little Rock, AR
August 23, 2022

By the end of 2024, all members of the Baby Boom generation (1945 -1964) will have turned 60 years old, switching from middle age to elderly according to people who study such things. Culturally, Baby Boomers are a curious and proud bunch, having come of age during a period that author and television executive Bill Flanagan addressed in his homage to Johnny Cash following the singer's death in 2003:

It's becoming more apparent with every year that goes by that the period from the mid-'50s to the mid-'70s was a golden age for popular music. To have lived in the era where Cash and Presley and the Beatles and Stones and Aretha and Dylan and Miles Davis were around is like to have lived in Paris during the time of the Impressionists.


Yes Indeed.

To be sure, Baby Boomers have a reputation for being rabidly dedicated to their favorite music, where a pedestrian trip to the local record store to peruse the new releases or cutout bins elevates to a level of religious ritual. Likewise, few experiences can rival peeling the shrink wrap from the just-released Sticky Fingers or Who's Next and trembling with anticipation as those vinyl discs were placed on the turntable. Baby Boomers have the reputation of being too serious about their music, long after it is fashionable to be so.

Well, so be it.

This dedication has proven to be lucrative for the record industry and artists alike in the form of revenue generated from re-released recorded material and themed concert tours. The latter of these has sharpened into "anniversary" tours and performances celebrating and featuring notable releases, like Little Feat's Waiting for Columbus (Warner Bros., 1979) 45th Anniversary Tour, Kansas's recent complete featuring of Leftoverture (Kirshner, 1976), the Allman Brothers performances of At Fillmore East (Capricorn, 1971), and Pink Floyd's complete performance of Dark Side Of the Moon (Capitol, 1973) on Pulse (EMI, 1995).

Further evolution of the themed concert also led to bands other than the original covering "classic" rock albums, like Phish's Halloween "Costume" treatments of the Beatles's White Album (Apple, 1968); the Who's Quadraphenia (MCA, 1973), and the Rolling Stones's Exile On Main Street (Rolling Stones, 1972). In addition to Phish, were Gov't Mule's cover of Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs And English Men (A&M, 1970) and the Tedeschi Trucks Band's performance of Derek And The Dominos's Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs (Polydor, 1970) on Layla Revisited (Live at Lockn') (Fantasy, 2021).

This trend has now reached elbow deep into Generation X with the Black Crowes' reunited for a third time (after years of strife between brothers Chris and Rich Robinson) culminating in a world tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of the commercial release of the band's debut recording, Shake Your Money Maker (Def American, 1990). This tour brought the band to Little Rock's First Security Bank Amphitheater on the shores of the Arkansas River on a southern evening where the air was the consistency of damp cotton and the crowd was hot and sticky.

In tow with the Crowes for this leg of the tour were the Texas Gentlemen, a merry band of Austin, TX studio aces who have grown more polished since the release of their first recording, TX Jelly (New West, 2017). The group is currently being produced by the Black Crowes' Chris Robinson and performed a 45- minute set of all new material yet to be recorded. The band's sound has evolved from a technically accomplished oddity into what Steely Dan may have sounded like had "My Old School" been about the University of Texas.

James Brown's "Get Up I Feel Like Being a Sex Machine" introduced the Black Crowes, this version being a sextet backed by a pair of female singers. Rich Robinson ground out the opening to "Twice As Hard," and the concert was off and running, featuring a complete reading of the band's debut recording, Shake Your Money Maker (Def American, 1990). Any lingering animosity between the brothers was not evident as the two slipped into their roles as frontman (Chris) and musical director (Rich), making this concert more than just a trip down memory lane.

Chris Robinson was vibrant and vigorous in performance, more recalling a rollicking Rod Stewart and Faces, circa 1970, than a much-reported Mick Jagger from the same period. He strutted and danced with the microphone and stand (extended slightly taller than himself) as the band powered through the LP order of songs. The showstoppers were predictable, "Jealous Again," "Could I've Been So Blind," "Seeing Things," and "Hard To Handle," the band's famous Otis Redding cover, showing definitively that Chris Robinson's vocal style owes much more to Redding, James Brown, and Solomon Burke than to Stewart or Jagger.

The performance illustrated the differing roles of the brothers. Chris, extroverted and animated, performed as spokesman, while Rich guided the performance as musical director, counting off the songs and changing guitars with every tune played. Traditionally, Rich plays guitar tuned to an open G-chord, as does Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. Primarily a rhythm guitarist, Rich Robinson expands that role (as does Richard) by being a master of guitar riffs. Here, the comparison between the Black Crowes and the Rolling Stones is most justified. The Crowes are an extension of the Stones' riff-centered composition, the rock and roll equivalent to Richard Wagner's Leitmotif.

The band closed the show with an expected cover, this one being the Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac song, "Oh Well," performed with fire, reverence, and abandon. The Black Crowes' "Shake Your Money Maker Tour" is much more than many older bands' efforts to capitalize on lost fame. The band behaved as if they cared... for the music and the audience.

Setlist and Personnel

Setlist: Twice as Hard; Jealous Again; Sister Luck; Could I've Been So Blind; Seeing Things; Hard to Handle (Otis Redding cover); Thick n' Thin; She Talks to Angels; Struttin' Blues; Stare It Cold; Soul Singing; Been a Long Time (Waiting on Love); Wiser Time; Sting Me; Remedy; Encore: Oh Well (Fleetwood Mac cover).

Personnel: Chris Robinson: lead vocals; harmonica, percussion; Rich Robinson: guitars, vocals; Isaiah Mitchell: guitar; Joel Robinow: keyboards; Sven Pipien: bass; Brian Griffin: drums; Mackenzie Adams: background vocals; Leslie Grant: background vocals.

The Black Crowes
Shake Your Money Maker (30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)
American Recordings
2021

In the beginning, there was the holy trinity: The Rolling Stones, Faces, and Humble Pie. Between 1968 and 1972, these bands defined a brand of blues-based, rollicking rock and roll that would serve as a model for good time music, loosely played, and often, substance fueled, that has been emulated by newer bands with limited success since. The music of these three bands possessed an infectious appeal pierced with a jagged sliver of danger... just like all rock and roll should. It was a heady time.

Taking a time machine to 1990, the year Shake Your Moneymaker was released, The Rolling Stones, having become businessmen, had released Steel Wheels (Rolling Stones, 1989), featuring the single, "A Rock And A Hard Place." Rod Stewart had left Faces after Ooh La La (Warner Bros., 1973), with bassist Ronnie Lane following closely behind. With Faces in the shade and Mick Taylor disgruntled and leaving the Rolling Stones in 1974, Ronnie Wood was able to make a lateral move from the moribund Faces to the Rolling Stones in 1975. And here we are.

Humble Pie? After Peter Frampton left the band in 1972, band membership became increasingly unstable save for the continuing (and essential) presence of frontman Steve Marriott, who was to die in a house fire on April 19, 1991. In any event, Humble Pie ceased being an influential band after the release of 1972's Smokin' (A&M). These circumstances mark 1972 as the end of this exceptional evolutionary plateau in blues-based rock music. That is, until 1990 when the Black Crowe's released Shake Your Money Maker. For listeners of a certain age, the music flipped a nostalgic switch with the sound of overdriven, riff-based, guitars, a tinkling Fender Rhodes piano, an expansive Hammond organ, and an extroverted lead singer raised on Black rhythm and blues.

Released in 2021, Shake Your Money Maker (30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) does what a decently programmed revisitation should: updating the original recording with contemporary remixing methods, the inclusion of alternate takes and demos, and a period live recording. The latter was recorded at Atlanta's Center Stage in 1990 and is an exciting exposition of the music, reckless, rocking, devoted, and dedicated. When first released, Shake Your Money Maker recalled that rarefied rock created in the early 1970s without being a rote copy of it. "Twice As Hard" showcases Rich Robinson's open chord riff prowess and his slide guitar playing (the latter often used in a rhythm capacity. "Could I've Been So Blind" sports some sharply defined rock drumming that accents the performance, while "Seeing Things" recalls Otis Redding's soul ballads without directly copying him.

Shake Your Money Maker (30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) is better conceived and produced than those of many recordings of the staid older bands released in the past several years. While we find ourselves definitively in a post-rock era, it is nice to have a potent reminder that this music was made and how important it remains.

Tracks and Personnel

Tracks: Disc 1 (Original Album Remastered) -Twice As Hard; Jealous Again; Sister Luck; Could I've Been So Blind; Seeing Things; Hard To Handle; Thick n' Thin; She Talks To Angels; Struttin' Blues; Stare It Cold; Mercy Street Moan. Disc 2 (Outtakes And Demos) -Charming Mess; 30 Days In The Hole; Don't Wake Me; Jealous Guy; Waitin' Guilty; "Hard To Handle" (With Horns Remix); "Jealous Again" (Acoustic Version); She Talks To Angels (Acoustic Version); She Talks To Angels (Mr. Crowe's Garden Demo); Front Porch Sermon (Mr. Crowe's Garden Demo). Disc 3 Live At Center Stage, Atlanta (1990)—Introduction; Thick N' Thin; You're Wrong; Twice As Hard; "Could've Been So Blind; Seeing Things; She Talks To Angels; Sister Luck; Hard To Handle; Shake 'Em On Down; Get Back; Struttin' Blues; Words You Throw Away; Stare It Cold; Jealous Again.

Personnel: Chris Robinson: lead vocals; harmonica, percussion; Rich Robinson: guitars, vocals; Jeff Cease: guitar; Johnny Colt: bass; Steve Gorman: drums. Additional Personnel: Chuck Leavell: keyboards; Laura Creamer: background vocals; Brenden O'Brien: various instruments.

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