Chris Robinson Brotherhood Defy Beast From The East For Two Powerful Shows in Hamburg and Amsterdam (SHOW REVIEW/PHOTOS)

It’s been two years since the Chris Robinson Brotherhood have played Europe and in that time they have released two albums and a five track EP of new material. To say the CRB are prolific and in a rich vein of form is an understatement. They have also released a triple live album, 2CD, Betty’s Self-Rising Southern Blends Volume 3. European fans had a whole lot of new music to hear from this band. Two weeks ago shows were sold out and a few others only had a handful of tickets. Opening night was at Uebel & Gefahrlich in Hamburg, Germany, an old flak tower from World War II. This show was going to be a new experience for the fans and the CRB. The previous evening I’d heard that the rhythm section of Tony Leone (drums) and Jeff Hill (bass) were stranded in Dublin, Ireland. The Siberian blizzards were throwing a blanket of snow and sub zero temperatures across Europe, causing travel disruptions, and the media were calling it the Beast from the East!

It’s -11 out on the street with snow everywhere, inside the venue is packed and hot. We are going to see the CRB do a semi acoustic show as a trio. Robinson sits center stage and picks up his Gibson acoustic, MacDougall has his keyboards and Casal has acoustic and electric guitars. Robinson: “Everybody knows why the rest of the bands not here (a report was placed on the band’s media sites earlier that day). Sorry about that. Truly, truly sorry. We are very excited to come here and play but winter time is not happening.”

“Hark, The Herald Hermit Speaks” from the new album, Barefoot In The Head is the opener. What would be the drum intro Robinson plays in a staccato on his acoustic. I’ve heard him say that he doesn’t know what this song is about but it’s full of wordplay and great imagery. It’s suited to a folksy Dylan-esque performance, “Let no man burden with the devils schemes, we must learn to live with poisonous things among us.” “Blonde Light Of Morning”, again from the new album, is a beautiful song that tells me though the chaos is around us a gentle tap on the shoulder says we can ride out this storm.

“California Hymn” finds Robinson’s acoustic high in the mix. “Forever roam, Welcome back home” is a laid back gospel with a tip of the hat to The Band. “Someday Past The Sunset” is a spiritual blues with a driving 12 bar, with Casal playing some wonderful electric slide guitar and Robinson singing like an angry pastor, like it’s Leadbelly on psychedelics. “Wanderer’s Lament” and “100 Days Of Rain” quickly follow, with the latter sounding like an old folk song from the Georgia heartland. “Glow “is a beautiful love song that really puts you in a trance with a wonderful vocal from Robinson. After this song Robinson said, “Thank you for letting us play the mellow stuff. We came to rock out…” an audience member shouts out, ‘You rock anyway!’ Robinson – “Thanks man (laughing)” “She Shares My Blanket” is a song of romance and desire, while “High Is
Not The Top” had a false start due to Robinson being in the wrong key. The original song off the album reminds me of Ralph Stanley on sweet leaf, and this was played a little loose goosey and slow but fun. Finally, towards the end of the night, Robinson remarked , “I’m sorry that Tony and Jeff couldn’t be here and we couldn’t do our whole business. It means a lot that you came out because we have been doing the CRB for about 8 years and you know we don’t pick where we play there’s a promoter and a booking agent – then they told us that nobody really wanted to see us in Germany. So thanks for coming. It feels nice. Thank you. We’ll come back and make a lot more noise next time.”

Day Two:

The Chris Robinson Brotherhood are playing at the infamous Paradiso in Amsterdam tonight! Again, I hear early morning that Tony Leone and Jeff Hill are still stranded in Dublin but the show must go on, right? I also hear travel disruptions mean fans from Scotland and Ireland can sadly not get to this show. The Paradiso is a wonderful building with two balconies
wrapped around the venue, which means fans can peer over the stage.The acoustics are also noted. It’s packed. No space to move around at all. Even the balconies are overflowing. The Chris Robinson Brotherhood are doing another one set, two-hour show as a trio, opening once again with “Hark, The Herald Hermit Speaks”, which sounds much stronger and assured than last night’s performance. The music washes over everyone with smiles all around. “Badlands Here We Come” and “Wanderer’s Lament” really shine tonight. Robinson is very animated, almost busting a foot through the stage. His vocal is  strong and shows he has lost none of that rock and roll edge when he chooses to let it roar. The audience are thrilled responding with applause many times through the song. When Casal or MacDougall take solos the crowd are with them in every way. “Sunday Sound”, again played on the opening night in Hamburg, got a little lost, but it did contain a spirited acoustic guitar solo from Casal. These unexpected shows without the rhythm section could have been a disaster but the Chris Robinson Brotherhood turned them into a new experience for them and their fans.

 

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