As The Crow Flies Makes For Wondrous Jams & Songs at Montbleu Resort and Casino in Stateline, NV (SHOW REVIEW)

Raised in the slower paced South and now calling Northern California home suits the laid-back 51-year-old version of Chris Robinson.  But don’t mistake the chill NorCal vibe relieving him of his ever-present restlessness.  Last summer, with some open space on the calendar of his psychedelic jam band outfit, The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, he decided to fill it with some rare solo acoustic dates.

Though a version of The Black Crowes last appeared on a stage in 2013 and all indications were that the end had come, Robinson inserted a few of his old ‘Crowes tunes in his solo sets and rekindled some of the joy in performing them.  That, and lunch with old friend and TBC guitarist Audley Freed, provided the spark to put together As The Crow Flies, which landed at the Montbleu Resort and Casino in Stateline, NV on May 12.

Having just played big shows Los Angeles and Oakland the prior two nights, one wondered if the penultimate show of the 17-stop tour might be a letdown.  Launching as they have all tour long with “Remedy” the barefoot Robinson, warmed his pipes and steadily cranked up the energy as they moved into “Sting Me” with Freed handling solo guitar spots.

The first half of the set was steady and tight with CRB bandmates Adam MacDougal on keys/vocals and rock-solid Tony Leone anchoring things on the kit.  Longtime Robinson pal Andy Hess handled the low end while 22-year-old guitarist Marcus King (The Marcus King Band) added his backing vocals.

Marcus King was on vacation with his girlfriend in the Florida Keys, taking a walk and eating an ice cream cone, when the call came that Robinson was interested in having him join the project. King was immediately intrigued by the idea and was all-in.  A mid-set stretch of High Head Blues, Good Friday > Almost Cut My Hair (Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young) and Wiser Time showcased King’s solo guitar abilities.

Doing his best to honor the tone he admires from ‘Crowes guitarist Marc Ford, King poured out raw, crunchy licks with a power towering above the more bluesy style that is the hallmark of his own band. It showed that at 22, King is a talent beyond the average axeman and where he wants to take it is up to him.

Playing on the opposite side of the stage was the smooth veteran Audley Freed. As the pace of the set picked up in its latter stages he showed the kid a thing or two with clean frenetic solo work as a counterpoint to King’s edge on the back half of “Thorn In My Pride” as well as in the closing tunes and encore.

The sextet pushed out hit after hit with Robinson leading them through it all, standing up vocally to the gnashing riffs, while preening and strutting about. Robinson proved that while his vocal styles are thoughtful and even times touching out front of the CRB, he still has the chops and presence to front a big rock band.

Ranging from the power balladry of “She Talks To Angels”, which featured the lighting rig illuminating 3000 co-vocalists, to his bouncy, staccato presentation of Otis Redding’s classic “Hard To Handle”, Robinson reiterated that the path he took to Deadhead land was paved with power rock.

After a quick break, As The Crow Flies dropped a tour debut on the shores of South Lake Tahoe, with a burning cover of The Marshall Tucker Band’s “Take The Highway”. King and Robinson, in particular, seemed to enjoy landing the tune as they exchanged smiling glances throughout and celebrated it’s conclusion along with the packed house of fans who squeezed every penny of fun and nostalgia out of the performance.

Chris Robinson has made it clear that ATCF is a one-off project owing to something fun to do on a scheduled break for The Chris Robinson Brotherhood. Hopefully, something unexpected intervenes and the itch needs scratching again down the road.

As The Crow Flies Setlist MontBleu Theatre, Stateline, NV, USA 2018

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One Response

  1. I was up front at this show. was insane, how good this show was. hope he gets nostalgic again real soon!

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