Chris Robinson Brotherhood develops unique identity in Port Chester show
When it comes to both blues rock and Southern rock, one of the biggest bands in both genres were The Black Crowes. For 25 years, the band brought to the table a sound that fused together the best elements of Led Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd, among others, complete with live shows that turned the rock band into one of the most popular jam bands in the country.
While The Black Crowes’ lineup changed multiple times during their existence, the only consistent members were the two volatile brothers who started the band, Chris and Rich Robinson, on vocals and guitar, respectively. Shortly before the band broke up in 2015, the former started a new side project based in San Francisco, called the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. Its sound was also based around blues rock, but unlike The Black Crowes, this new band mixed it with elements of psychedelic music.
When The Black Crowes finally split up, the Brotherhood became Chris Robinson’s new full-time band, releasing five studio albums over five years, with the most recent one, Barefoot in the Head, released in July. One stop of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood’s latest U.S. tour was at the popular Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York. While the band’s tours usually do not have an opening act, this one show in particular had a unique pre-show prepared.
In the nearby Grateful Dead-themed bar Garcia’s, a conversation took place in a packed house with Chris, Rabbi Dan Ain and Relix Magazine’s Mike Greenhaus. The topics addressed were largely based around the intersectionality of music and spirituality, with Chris throwing in his own experiences about growing up in Atlanta and about his time in both The Black Crowes and the Brotherhood.
While this is not what one would typically expect any artist to do before a show, the fact that both the band and the venue offered it to the fans as a bonus with their regular admission was a nice gesture and the perfect setup for a night of psychedelic blues. An hour and a half later, the main set finally started in the theater.
In addition to Chris on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, the Brotherhood also consists of Neal Casal on lead guitar, former Black Crowes member Adam MacDougall on keyboard, Jeff Hill on bass guitar and Tony Leone on drums. Like any other jam band, the Brotherhood never plays the same set list twice in concert. While certain songs appear frequently during the tour, their placement varies from venue to venue.
The shows themselves also vary in length, with the Capitol Theatre show clocking in at 2 and a half hours, longer when one counts the 40-minute intermission. As a testament to how much time and effort Chris Robinson has placed in the Brotherhood, 11 original songs are present in the set list, with five coming from the new album.
The band also performed covers of songs by Waylon Jennings, Slim Harpo and even John Lennon ,among others. As for Chris Robinson’s former band, “I Ain’t Hiding” was the only Black Crowes song performed, off their final album Before the Frost...Until the Freeze, again showing how far he has come as an artist since that band broke up.
While both sets were filled with a hefty amount of jamming, this seemed to be more prevalent in the first set rather than the second, which was based more around playing new material. As for the jams themselves, the Brotherhood members knew when to the draw the line between showing off their skills and overstaying their welcome during a song. They seemed to augment rather than detract from the music and they were always in tune to whatever vibe was being set by the song. The end result was a band that managed to stand on its own merits, escaping the shadow of The Black Crowes.
What made the show even more unique that night was that it was also being livestreamed in its entirety on YouTube, as with a lot of shows staged at the Capitol Theatre.
Considering that the fan bases of jam bands were primarily built around fans trading recordings of various full-length shows among themselves, one could view this as the modern equivalent to this classic tradition. While it is not a direct follow-up to The Black Crowes, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood keeps the spirit of that band going with a brand new group of musicians.
Considering that his brother, Rich, is gearing up his new touring band, The Magpie Salute, to record its anticipated debut album, it seems that the public’s appetite for more music from The Black Crowes is being sated by two separate spiritual successors.