As the Crow Flies: Portland Gig Review

On “Mother’s Day,” Sunday, May 13, 2018, Chris Robinson’s latest project, “As the Crow Flies” hit Portland, Oregon, for a sold out show at the Crystal Ballroom. It was the band’s final stop on the tour. You never know what to expect when you cover a show, but everything worked like it was supposed to and we even found a free parking space, which only happens once every five years, so I guess it was time. Even though the show was sold out and packed when we got there we ended up with front row seats center stage in the balcony for an unobstructed view of the entire show. There are a couple hundred seats in the balcony with standing room for over a thousand on the main floor.

The “Once and Future Band” from Oakland, California opened the show at 8:00 PM with their “neo psychedelic” brand of progressive rock combining the influences of artists like “Pink Floyd,” “Yes” and “Emerson, Lake & Palmer.” The “Crystal Ballroom” was a dance hall during the “Roaring 1920s,” with a floating dance floor that vibrates when a thousand people are gyrating on it. Other than going into the photo pit on the main floor for the first 3 songs of both acts I enjoyed the show from my balcony seat where I could see the throbbing sea of people pulsating to the beat of the music.

At 9:15 PM “As the Crow Flies” hit the stage with an explosive entrance as Chris Robinson and company dove into “Remedy,” from the “Black Crowes” second album, 1992’s The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. The band was comprised of “Chris Robinson Brotherhood” drummer, Tony Leone, phenomenal 22 year old guitarist, Marcus King, and three former members of the “Black Crowes,” guitarist – Audley Freed, Bassist – Andy Hess and Keyboardist – Adam MacDougall. The next two songs “Sting Me” and “Hotel Illness” were also from the same album as Robinson danced back and forth in front of the microphone stand clapping his hands and even inverting the microphone stand as he sang into it, like Rod Stewart. Everyone jammed to high heaven as Robinson cupped the microphone while he played his mouth harp.

“Nonfiction,” first appeared on 1994’s Amorica and began with McDougall’s subdued organ that harmonized with Freed’s guitar, until a barefooted Robinson danced his way to the microphone and began to sing,

“I don’t know my telephone number
But you kiss good and I’d like to
See you tomorrow…”

“By Your Side,” the title song from the “Black Crowes” 5th album in 1999 was another stellar blowout with McDougall and King singing harmony behind Robinson. The “Black Crowes” debut album, Shake Your Money Maker was released in 1990 and went multi-platinum resulting in their sharing the stage with top artists like Robert Plant, “ZZ Top” and “Motley Crue. The band officially broke up in January 2015, but released 8 studio albums during its quarter of a century existence and sold 30 million albums, establishing it as one of the top hard rock bands in the world. “Seeing Things” was one of 4 songs off of that album that they performed, with Robinson singing a soulful lament.

“’Cause I’m seeing things, for the first time
I’m seeing things, for the first time…”

Robinson strutted and danced with his raised hands clapping in the air, like an ecstatic Pentecostal as the band played on between verses. “High Head Blues” from their third album, 1994’s Amorica, with the controversial album cover was an intense number that everyone jammed ruthlessly on. They were as tight as an over wound watch with MacDougall, King and Freed jamming together, until they concluded to the audience’s enthusiastic roar. They immediately segued into “Good Friday,” from 1996’s Three Snakes and One Charm with Robinson wailing on his harmonica until he began to sing with a righteous zeal.

“I will not forgive you
Nor will I accept the blame
I will see you on Good Friday…”

Once again the band segued into the next song which was David Crosby’s composition, “Almost Cut My Hair” from “Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s 1970 album, Déjà vu. It featured some of the best ultra stratospheric guitar wailing of the show with both Freed and King trying to outdo the other. Robinson raised his arm in the air as he waved his freak flag. I don’t think that anybody that wasn’t alive as a teenager or older when this song was released can imagine the solidarity that it evoked among the ostracized hippie long hairs of the then conservative American society. It was an extended jam that built in intensity with blazing guitars, until it exploded in conclusion to thunderous applause.

Both guitars began delicately playing together as an introduction to Amorica’s “Wiser Times,” before drums and bass kicked in. Keyboards were dominant through most of the song, even when guitars came in and the jam intensified, until King began a solo that demonstrated his virtuosity on the axe. About 12 minutes into the jam he took a bow and Freed took over on guitar and proved his worth. It was the longest jam of the night done in the spirit of the Bay area jam bands of the 1960’s, which were led by the “Grateful Dead.”

Marcus King performs with As The Crow Flies

“She Talks to Angels” was another great song from Shake Your Money Maker as Robinson alternated between grabbing the microphone stand and wildly gesticulating with his hands as he clapped and danced while he wailed,

“Says she talks to angels
They call her out by her name.”

I covered two “Black Crowes” shows. One in 1997 when they headlined the “Furthur Festival and the other in 2002 at the Roseland theater. Both times they were superb with tight musicianship and exciting performances. Tonight’s stellar show was just as good and it rocked.
“Thorn In My Pride” from the “Black Crowes” second album gave 22 year old Marcus King an opportunity to perform another amazing guitar solo, as Robinson took over on harmonica with the band joining in behind him, producing another amazing jam at full throttle, until the pace slowed down to nearly a dead stop. At that point the harmonica began again and led the outro as Robinson clutched the microphone to his instrument. “Jealous Again” another cut from the “Crowes” debut album had Robinson standing in front of the microphone stand wildly geturing one minute and strutting around the stage the next.

The band dove into “Hard To Handle,” which was originally recorded and co-written by the late great Otis Redding and appeared on the “Crowes” 1990 debut. Robinson sang the choppy lyrics as he danced in front of the band that was playing at full throttle. Drummer Tony Leone was beating out time like a locomotive as King shredded his guitar with sonic licks soaring through the ether as multi-colored lights flashed and Robinson danced until they broke into Hush, written by Joe South, but recorded and popularized by Billy Joe Royal and “Deep Purple.” It was a psychedelic romp as they amplified “Deep Purple’s” verson of song.” Na, na, na, na, na,na, na, na, na, filled the air as the crowd sang “Hush!” McDougall took lead on keyboards as Leone continued his cadence, until everyone played to the last note and put down their instruments and walked off the stage.

After about a minute of screaming, clapping and foot stomping the band returned to the stage and began playing, “Take the Highway,” a “Marshall Tucker Band” song from the early 1970’s. Robinson opened the song with his harmonica and then began to sing with a powerful voice,

“Take the Highway
Lord knows I’ve been gone too long…”

Freed began to play and broke into a solo that was riveting, when King joined in and blew the roof off, while Hess thumped his bass like a madman in between them. The song exploded into another jam that had everyone in maximum overdrive, until everything came to an end at 10:45 PM, leaving time to hit the taco stand before it closes.

Review by Bob Gersztyn

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “As the Crow Flies: Portland Gig Review”

  1. Bill Cassidy says:

    Great review! interesting yet concise and knowledgeable. Good stuff Bob Gersztyn!

Leave a Reply

Bulk Email Sender