The Black Crowes
Family Circle Cup Stadium
Chris Robinson has a dream. He dreams of a world where people don't talk during slow acoustic songs and keep their cell phones in their pockets. Unfortunately for him, he was in Charleston, where we socialize as naturally as we sweat on a late summer night. And, of course, we were at a Black Crowes show, the most rock 'n' roll band in rock 'n' roll, and we'd just punched out for the weekend and started drinking a few hours before.
Robinson's admonition to the crowd during the fourth song, "The Last Place that Love Lives," followed an explosive opening to the set — "Jealous Again," "Soul Singing," and "Hotel Illness" in quick succession. With Luther Dickinson and Rich Robinson playing electric guitars for much of the "acoustic" first set, there oftentimes wasn't much acoustic about it, other than the fact that they were sitting down.
After pausing 'The Last Place" to address the crowd, the band finished the song up and seemed to revel in the crowd's enthusiasm from there on. Just before a fun take on Bob Marley's "Time Will Tell," Robinson told the crowd about another dream — one where someone walks along with a biscuit, dripping with honey, that drips onto a hot rock and evaporates. "But it was sweet while it lasted," he smiled.
The show's first truly great moment came during an extended instrumental jam out of "Ballad in Urgency," with Luther's slide playing off Sven Pipien's Allen Woody-esque bass explorations. The set could have easily ended with "My Morning Song," arguably the highlight, with Robinson supported by two soulful backup singers, but they stuck around for a crowd-pleasing visit to their early ballad, "She Talks to Angels."
Set break was quick, just long enough for the crowd to mingle and reiterate what a great outdoor venue the tennis stadium is. Even in the nosebleeds, the view makes up for the distance, and there's not a seat in the stadium where the sound isn't at least satisfactory. There's certainly a sonic sweet spot halfway up in the middle, but for audiophiles, the basin atmosphere of the venue makes for acoustics most outdoor venues would envy.
The Crowes ditched their stools for the electric set, busting out a handful of deep cuts, including "Blackberry," "I Ain't Hiding," "Ozone Mama," and "Descending," before leaving the stage to let pianist Adam MacDougall show off his impressive key pounding. They soon dropped into a big highlight, "Thorn in my Pride," which was heavy on the gospel, before equally the equally pleasing "Dirty Hair Halo" and "Sometimes Salvation."
With the clock ticking toward the 11 p.m. curfew, the band hit the simple progression of the one cover I'd crossed my fingers for: The Velvet Underground's "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'." Trading solos, Luther and then Rich did the epic build-up justice, with Rich taking over lead vocals for Chris, who strummed a guitar and joined almost the entire band harmonizing on the chorus.
Having played nearly three hours — a worthy lesson to many of today's indie acts who tour on one hour sets — the Crowes closed out with a big "(Only) Halfway to Everywhere," before just pushing their cut-off time with a "Remedy" encore.
"We'll see you when we see you," said Chris Robinson as the band bowed and left the stage. With a breakup/hiatus coming in December, that's the best they can honestly offer. But thanks for the rocking memories, and sorry if we were chatty.