Beacon Theater, New York City • January 25, 1999
During a memorable point in the late ’70s, southern rock ruled the airwaves. Bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet and .38 Special gave progressive rock outfits like Queen, Yes, and Genesis a run for the money, introducing southern culture to hard rock audiences through a genre-defining blend of country and blues loaded with pop sensibilities. While they are most often compared to the Rolling Stones, for their distinctive blues rock swagger, the first of three sold-out nights at New York City’s Beacon Theater witnessed a passing of the great Southern rock torch to heirs apparent, the Black Crowes, undoubtedly one of the hardest-rocking, most passionate bands making music today.
On what is appropriately dubbed the Souled Out tour, the Crowes captured the passion of their audience from the first rockin’ notes of “Remedy” — a huge blues-rock hit from their CD, Southern Harmony and Musical Companion — that kicked off the speeding locomotive of their two-hour set. Lead singer and frontman extraordinaire Chris Robinson provided a visual flashback to the era of glam rock (on top of his already flamboyant, high energy stage presence) leaping and strutting about the stage in magenta stretch trousers and a matching tunic of bright pink sequins, and bare feet! With the band set against a stage backdrop of reflective mylar, the vision of Robinson in all hot pink and the added hallucinatory effect of de rigueur colored lighting likely enhanced the influence of whatever most of the audience was smoking (the Black Crowes are well-known marijuana rights activists).
“Just one question I might ask ya, can you make this thing go faster?” Robinson enthusiastically implored on the next song, “Go Faster” from their newest release, By Your Side . Possessed of a voice that recalls not only Jagger but James Brown and even (bear with me) Tina Turner, Robinson delivers each and every song as if his life depends on the audience really getting it. And get it, they do. The Black Crowes rocked the house! The evening was a non-stop crowd pleasing mix of favorites like “Jealous Again” and “No Speak No Slave,” propelled by the band’s intense jams and Robinson’s powerful charisma. Among eight selections drawn from By Your Side were the single “Kickin’ My Heart Around,” the anti heroin message of “Horsehead,” and the Rod Stewart-esque title cut. By the time they made their final exit, following a three song encore of “She Talks to Angels,” “Twice as Hard,” and “Virtue and Vice” (the final track on the new record), there was no doubt the Black Crowes would give the audience their money’s worth for the next two nights as well. They don’t call them the “World’s Most Rock & Roll Rock & Roll Band” for nothing.