The Black Crowes hit The Fillmore this week for a run of four shows that close out their current 90-city tour. The band is on the road in support of their recent release Warpaint – their first album in seven years and their best since 1994’s Amorica. Brothers Chris (lead vocals) and Rich Robinson (guitar) have a notoriously rocky personal relationship, but they were in perfect sync from the opening tune on Monday night. This iteration of the group features Luther Dickinson (
late of the North Mississippi All-Stars, and son of legend James Luther Dickinson) on co-lead and slide guitar, and it’s a band that’s obviously been sharpened by the rigors of a long tour.
I’ve been going to The Fillmore since shortly after it re-opened (after seismic retrofitting) in 1994, and every so often it’s possible to catch a glimpse of what the scene must have been like back in the day. Monday was one of those nights. If The Crowes’ pre-show burning of sage wasn’t enough, their boogie stomp rock – reminiscent of vintage Stones and Faces – did the trick and turned The Fillmore into the world’s loudest time machine. “Everyone with long hair gets to go on the spaceship first,” said Chris Robinson by way of introducing a tune midway through the evening, and with his Jesus beard and mane, there’s little doubt that Robinson himself stands near the front of that particular line.
The band played a set list short on well-known material, but they kept up a consistent groove that moved the crowd for two full hours. Highlights included a sweltering, swaggering version of Taj Mahal’s ‘Chevrolet’ and a pair of songs – ‘Goodbye Daughters Of The Revolution’ and ‘Locust Street’ – from Warpaint. They encored with ‘She Talks To Angels’ and a raucous version of The Band’s ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’. The latter was personally redemptive for me, as I had been permanently scarred in 1995 by watching the Jerry Garcia Band perform a ragged, never-ending version of the song that drove me to the brink of madness.
Cleveland can have its Hall of Fame – the real rock cathedral is at the corner of Fillmore and Geary streets in San Francisco. With its velvet curtains, crystal chandeliers suspended above a parquet ballroom floor, and upstairs bars stuffed with posters from past rock glories, The Fillmore is a remarkable building to visit anytime. Having The Black Crowes in the house just made the whole experience that much sweeter…