It can be argued that The Black Crowes are the greatest American rock band of the past 20 years. The band emerged from the imploding vortex of hair metal’s fizzled star with timeless, straight-up rock n roll. They stood their ground as grunge surged and eventually dissipated, then held hands with alternative and jam all the way to indie’s door. Knock Knock! Who’s There? Rock and Roll bitch!!
The Black Crowes are basking in their granddaddy status, comfortable to do as they please. Toying effortlessly with a grab bag of extremely popular songs, they make bands like Gov’t Mule and Widespread seem so boring (There has to be at least one hippy that dropped his glass piece and blew granola nuggets in his hemp shorts just now). The Crowes reward fans with long, masterful explorations of melody and theme with grandiose bridges back into songs that are actually great on their own merit ‚ all while rocking. Performing is not just an excuse to practice in your town and noodle your face off, but a great rock band serving up an order of blues boogie-woogie with extra southern gravy.
That said, the Crowes waltzed into the H.O.B. to bestow some of their majesty upon us. As I moved through the crowd during the opener, Amorica’s “Wiser Times‚” I noticed they sounded really good, but not as smooth and masterful as expected. Once I found a spot ‚a nearly impossible task in Orlando’s H.O.B. (not to get on a soap box but, isn’t it funny that it’s in Buena Vista and there is not a “good view” in the house. If you are not on the Loge [not rich enough] or in the middle of the floor [not early or young enough], you either have a pillar or a drunk asshole in your face. Then you end up watching it on a monitor anyway. So if anyone preaches H.O.B’s superiority to the Hard Rock as a venue, punch them in the sternum). I realized that Eddie Harsch, bad ass piano man, and more importantly Marc Ford, guitar god, are absent from the line-up.
Marc Ford is such a vital part of the BC’s charisma. A virtuoso and prodigy, Ford’s guitar work with Steve Gorman’s Gonzo-ish drumming, Rich’s melody and overlooked rhythm guitar mastery and Chris’s classic front man panache and golden pipes elevated the band from powerful southern rock to the sublime. They rock without Ford and Harsch, but fail to reach that graceful ethereal realm.
The Crowes play two kinds of shows now: three hour plus mega shows and two hour crowd pleasers with more singles, less jam. The H.O.B. show was the latter. They played solid versions of “Good Friday” and “Sting Me” and rollicked through extended workings of “Soul Singin’” and Southern Harmony’s “My Morning Song” without the mesmerizing ferocity of Marc Ford. No matter what, the BC’s are a great night. Hesitant to spend 50 bucks only a year and a half after seeing their monumental show at The Hard Rock and closing Langerado, I asked my best friend, “How many times can we hear “Sting Me?” He replied, “As many times as we can.” Three cheers for rock n roll.
Article originally appeared in REAX #17, September 15 2007