The Black Crowes are going on indefinite hiatus at the end of their current tour, and if these are the band's final days together, they're making them count.
Tuesday night's show at a packed Depot was a masterful lesson in how to deliver a true, straightforward rock & roll show. It was slippery enough around the edges to keep it from seeming too clean, but the nine people on stage bringing the vision of founding brothers Chris and Rich Robinson to life also locked in together so tightly for most of the show that it was impossible not to be impressed with the sheer force of what was going on onstage.
This "Say Goodnight to the Bad Guys" tour comes as the band celebrates its 20th birthday, and the show delivered a career-spanning look at an underrated American rock band. The band mixed familiar hits with deep album cuts, and drew almost equally from their most popular albums during the two-hour show—Shake Your Money Maker, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion and Amorica were all represented by multiple songs.
Any Black Crowes show review has to start with Chris Robinson, the lanky, soulful frontman whose energy is infectious. A friend remarked during Tuesday's show, "He's so into the sound of his own band. I love that!" And it's true; Robinson was a hyperactive presence constantly grinning at the ripping solos undertaken by lead guitarist Luther Dickinson, or clapping as the two backup singers tore into some vocal gymnastics. Notably, the brothers didn't make nearly as much eye contact as Chris Robinson did with the rest of the band. Guitarist Rich Robinson had his section of the stage largely to himself, and Chris Robinson generally danced along either facing the crowd or with his back to his brother. The seeming frostiness between the brothers on stage just made "Jealous Again" all the more potent as it opened the encore, with the two brothers trading vocals and staring each other in the eye throughout. Good stuff.
For the most part, the vibe was all good on stage, again thanks to Chris Robinson and the stellar band. Opener "Midnight from the Inside-Out" was a pleasant surprise, an odd choice considering it comes from one of the band's least-revered albums, Lions. The song segued perfectly into a rambunctious version of "Gone," easily one of the show's highlights.
Among the other high points Tuesday: The seamless transition between "My Morning Song" and "Stare It Cold," "She Gave Good Sunflower" from the Amorica album, as well as a massive jam on the set-closing "Wiser Time," featuring Dickinson and the two Robinsons in a three-way guitar throwdown (Dickinson won, easily).
The encore featured the Robinson stare-down of "Jealous Again," one of the first songs the public heard from the Black Crowes 20 years ago, along with a cover of Little Feat's "Willin" and a steller show-closer in the groovy "Remedy."
If this was indeed the last time Salt Lake City sees the Black Crowes perform together, at least it was arguably the best they've ever been for a stop in Zion. Somehow, though, it's hard to imagine a band performing at this level won't find their way back to each other to make more music.
Here's a complete set list of Tuesday's show: MIDNIGHT FROM THE INSIDE OUT>GONE>EVIL EYE>MY MORNING SONG>STARE IT COLD>LET IT BE GONE>GIRL FROM A PAWNSHOP>SHE GAVE GOOD SUNFLOWER>POOR ELIJAH - TRIBUTE TO JOHNSON (MEDLEY)>SHINE ALONG>TWICE AS HARD> WISER TIME - encore - JEALOUS AGAIN>WILLIN>REMEDY