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The Black Crowes - 05-15-06


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The Black Crowes

Ottawa Congress Centre

Ottawa, ON

Monday, May 15, 2006

Live Music Review

show available via bt.etree.org

(thanks Bradm)

By AD

Chris Robinson - Black Crowes

Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes belts out with his voice during

Wiser Time.

(photo by: Mike Bouchard)

The Black Crowes returned to Canada in May 2006 for shows in unlikely places, such as Kelowna and Thunder Bay. A May 15 show at Ottawa's Congress Centre was another unexpected date, but it was one that was circled on my calendar for months. It was almost 11 months since my last Crowes experience, their epic main-stage performance at Bonnaroo 2005. Crowes north of the border is a somewhat rare treat, and coincidentally the Ottawa show was exactly one year since the last time I saw them in Canada, at Montreal's Metropolis.

Walking into the Congress Centre it was clear this would be a different show than Montreal. Whereas the Metropolis is a grand concert venue built for live music with sightlines, acoustics and lighting, the Congress Centre is designed for trade shows and conventions. The grand ballroom was split in half, there was a wide stage with a lighting rig close to the low ceiling. The floor was carpeted. This was a bit strange in my concert-going experience. Also strange in my Black Crowes experience was the informal nature of the surroundings. Weird ballroom, beers available about 50 steps away, no backdrop on the stage, and no stage decoration. The last couple of times I'd seen the Crowes every flat surface on stage was covered with (fake) candles. The informal impression continued when the band took the stage shortly after 8:30. The backup singers, in my memory usually dressed in sleek black dresses were sporting blue jeans and t-shirts. It looked like Marc Ford has just woken up.

Any thoughts that were creeping into my mind about this being a warm-up tour or a dress rehearsal for something further on down the road were blown to bits with the opening chords of Virtue and Vice, the last song on By Your Side. This is one of my favourite songs to hear live; it lets Eddie (keyboards) get up front right from the get-go. The piano outro was great and I was especially relieved to see Eddie on the stage after the brief period of rumours earlier this year about him leaving the band.

Next up was a very early Wiser Time; this set the tone for the rest of the night. Nice and loose, great harmonies between Chris and Rich. The singing was pretty good for most of the night as Chris, Marc and Rich all sang lead for various songs. There was an ‘interesting' harmony in the bridge of the next song, Greasy Grass River. It seemed Chris and Rich were in different keys, but after a panicked glance at each other the problem was corrected. It must be in the DNA. The intro to Greasy Grass River seemed a bit unorganized and sloppy, but the Crowes are a band that can easily shake it off and get back on track. Steve Gorman (drums) was particularly ‘on' during this song; the syncopation in the beat gave all the air-drummers in the crowd fits.

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The Black Crowes have been playing some great covers on their tour through Canada. You Don't Miss Your Water, Ain't No More Cane, and Do Right Woman were just three of the covers played on the first two nights of the tour in British Columbia. I was hoping to hear at least one of these songs, but the first cover Ottawa heard was a fairly generic version of Dylan's Girl From the North Country. I took the last half of this song to explore the lineups in the venue, first for the beer tickets, and then for the beer itself. I was glad this show was on a Monday night; if it had been on a weekend, both my wallet and liver wouldn't have survived. $6 for a beer? Well, OK, but I'm not going to be happy about it… until I drink it. I also noticed a buffet table in the lobby of the ballroom, first time I'd seen that at a Crowes show. I didn't partake. It turns out my exploration was very well timed, as I missed By Your Side. This song has always made me cringe for some reason, and while I heard they played it well, it just doesn't work for me. I was ready for what came next….

Girl From a Pawnshop. This was, in the parlance of our times, Kickass. I had never heard them play this live before and was blown away by the intensity and skill shown by the whole band and backup singers. Chris channelled Faces-era Rod Stewart, and Rich and Marc nailed some wicked licks in both the bridge and outro that would make Lowell George and Duane Allman proud (and jealous?).

The second cover of the night was a lovely little singalong of You've Got to Hide Your Love away, sung by Rich. It was OK, and it got the crowd into the show which was a nice bonus, but there wasn't much interesting happening in the music.

The rest of the show was just ridiculous. If you were there you probably won't be forgetting it anytime soon, unless you had too many $6 domestics.

My Morning Song

L.A.

Share The Ride->

Mellow Down Easy ->

High Head Blues

Soul Singing

Remedy

rich robinson - the black crowesMy Morning Song is a wicked Southern-rock song with swagger. Chris was strutting around the stage clapping, playing with the microphone stand, and cheering the rest of the band on while they rocked it. This seemed extra long while Chris waited for Steve and the rest of them to finish up on the repeated ascending runs, but the crowd and band were loving the tension being created on stage.

…This is where the memories get hazy from the $6 domestics…. Sorry folks…

By far the best cover of the night was next. I have been listening to Time Fades Away by Neil Young since my Mom gave me her copy when I was in grade school. I was totally shocked to hear the beginning to L.A., especially with Marc singing. The Crowes didn't really make the song their own, but it's pretty hard to do when the author is Mr. Young. This was by far the highlight of the night for me, and it was definitely a great primer for the trilogy of Share The Ride -> Mellow Down Easy -> High Head Blues. I'm pretty sure everyone was either dancing or at least moving some part of their body to Mellow Down Easy, it's such a great choice for the Crowes to play and I never get tired of it. (This and Hard to Handle are of course two covers that the Crowes have made their own over time).

I guess the Crowes are playing Soul Singing every night now, and I've heard people complain about this on various message boards, but I have none to add. It's a great song. Unfortunately nature called during the beginning and I had to take care of business, so, not having listened to the recording since I can't offer any opinion on the performance. It must have been short though; by the time I got my stuff done and had a break on the smoking patio the band was halfway through Remedy.

The encore was short and sweet. After a two-minute or so break Chris and Steve walked back on stage and the rest followed closely behind. Rich strummed the beginning of She Talks to Angels and the crowd responded with a loud cheer. This was the closest the Crowes came to a radio hit during the Ottawa show, and although I'd pick a different song if I were in charge of setlists, it sure made a lot of people smile in the audience. Near the back of the hall where there was lots of room to move around people danced and sang along.

This wasn't the best Black Crowes show I've seen, but after travelling hours and hours to see them in the past it was quite the treat to see them a twenty minute walk from my front door. Even if the lingering thoughts of some that the Canadian tour was a rehearsal or tune-up for the rest of the summer are true, I hope the warm reception they received here will convince them to come back and show us how it's done very soon. They are without question the best live rock and roll band playing today.

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good review AD. At our show Ford not only looked like he just woke up, he also looked kinda pissy. Whereas in the past he seemed to have that road weary, sad eyes gaze, in Toronto he just looked kinda mad. Anyway, certainly didn't detract from his amazing playing.

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