The Black Crowes: Royal Albert Hall, London
Nina Antonia, MOJO, April 1995
WELCOME TO THE DUDE ranch aka the Royal Albert Hall. Legions of longhairs, clutching their America Or Bust tour posters, strut into the luscious red and gold venue. While you might visualise The Black Crowes as sons of nature with grass between their toes and sunflowers for friends, tonight’s incredible performance shows that they can whip up a storm whatever the surrounds.
Dipping from a bag of past and present fare with the emphasis on America, the Crowes break into the impassioned flight of ‘A Conspiracy’. Somebody disguised as the Devil is crawling along the amplifiers, and Chris Robinson is grooving like a stoned temple dancer on an elastic tightrope. The rest of the Crowes are relatively static, letting their front-man and the prodigious music make all the moves, Marc Ford and Rich Robinson occasionally stepping forward to give it out some.
The boys have always had a handle on hook-lines and the spacey come on of ‘High Head Blues’ pulls a couple of thousand revellers right inside. It’s a little unfortunate then, with the entire house in full tilt rock-out mode, that the beatific proceedings should meander following Chris’s announcement of something about “freaky warnings”, while the band lurch into a long stretch instrumental. Before you can yell “have mercy” they rise out of the lost valley into the glorious ballad ‘In Urgency’, Chris Robinson’s bruised blues voice hitting the ultimate in awesome yearning before they barrel into a punchy ‘Hard To Handle’.
If at their feisty inception, some considered them upstart pretenders with no tricks of their own, The Black Crowes’ vibrant ascendancy to the rhythm’n’blues throne overthrows the detractors who can’t tell silver from foil. Not that any of this concerns the band as they chuckle over a life-size pig dressed in a police uniform, a teaser for new number ‘Way Too Guilty’. The Devil/pig disguises man reappears for the encore as, you’ve guessed it, a giant black crow. Me, I could’ve grown wings during a spectacular ‘Wiser Time’, elegantly flavoured by keyboard king Eddie Harsch. Then we’re into the home run, Willie Dixon’s ‘Mellow Down Easy’ flips into Elmore James’s ‘Shake Your Money Maker’, while ‘Remedy’ makes for the big blow out. Black Crowes, white lightnin’.
Nina Antonia, 1995