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Concert Reviews:
Black Crowes Leave Fans With Good Music And Memories As Hiatus Looms
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

DETROIT -- The Black Crowes are not headed into their announced hiatus with long faces or tears. It's simply not that kind of band.

On Friday night (Aug. 20) at the Fillmore Detroit, the Crowes didn't even utter any words of (temporary) farewell to their Motor City fans. The group, which is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its debut album, "Shake Your Money Maker," simply did what it did best -- play a long and exciting set of organic, flowing rock 'n' roll, filling three hours of music (plus a 15-minute intermission) with instrumental dexterity and extemporaneous jamming that drew influence from, and even reached the level of, forebears such as the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band.

It wasn't necessarily a show for dabblers who only know the Crowes from their handful of hits; it's not THAT kind of band, either. But over the course of 20 songs the sextet -- augmented by a percussionist and two female backup singers -- gave the Fillmore crowd a broad and exhausting trip through its catalog with a few stylistics facelifts and other surprises.

The evening started with a 65-minute acoustic set, beginning with the "Cold Boy Smile" before settling into the soft chug of "Jealous Again," the Crowes' first single and one of many showcases for guitarist Luther Dickinson. Frontman Chris Robinson welcomed fans to "our little hootenanny" -- then counseled those under 40 to Google the word to see what it means. The opening act mixed acoustic retoolings of favorites ("Hotel Illness," "She Talks to Angels" and "My Morning Song" with a gospel-flavored coda added on) and Crowes catalog obscurities ("How Much For Your Wings," "Bring On, Bring On," "Roll Old Jeremiah"), concluding with a romp through the hit "Remedy."

The electric set was even more expansive, charged by the joyous "Soul Singing" and a Mississippi hill country-styled "Share the Ride." Guitarist Rich Robinson sang the Velvet Underground's "Oh Sweet Nuthin'," sharing solos with Dickinson, but the evening's real fire came during a flowing suite of "Nonfiction," "Ballad in Urgency," "Wiser Time" and "Thorn in My Pride," all fused by dynamically cascading jams boasting fierce solos by Robinson, Dickinson, keyboardist Adam MacDougall and, during the latter, drummer Steve Gorman, while Chris Robinson was a subtle conductor, occasionally contributing guitar and harmonica to the mix.

The encore -- "I Ain't Hiding," an uncharacteristically contemporary thumper from 2009's "Before the Frost...Until the Freeze" -- sent the fans home dancing, while Friday's sheer mass of music and organic passion will certainly tide them over for as long as the Crowes feel like nesting.



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