Three years ago The Black Crowes came through New York City on a tour that was leading to a hiatus for the band. At the time the group was on a creative highpoint and played a series of exhilarating shows that the band enjoyed so much they released parts of each officially as Wiser For The Time. Now in 2013 the band is on the verge of yet another break but judging from the restrained playing and overall sluggish feeling on this night, that may be for the best.
Before the Crowes took the stage, early arrivers were treated to 45 minutes of the fantastic Blind Boys of Alabama. The band, slick in silver shiny suits and black shirts, gorgeously opened with the Curtis Mayfield penned “People Get Ready”. The four main Blind Boy vocalists sounded dynamic in the half full club as bass, guitar, B3 and drums gingerly worked out behind the voices. There was some boogie woogie in the band’s “Spirit In the Sky” cover, that had elderly hips shaking on stage while a cascading mixed tempo version of Tom Waits “Way Down In The Hole” was invigorating. The group’s meshing of two classics by singing “Amazing Grace” to the tune of “House of The Rising Sun” was enchanting and those who showed up late sure missed out on a great set from the legends.
When the Crowes started up “Under a Mountain” the venue became crowded but still less then sold out. Touring with Jackie Greene on lead guitar the group played some mid-tempo numbers expertly but without a real passion. Songs like “Gone”, “No Use Lying” and “Virtue and Vice” just never got the crowd or the band all that inspired; it could have been anything from the tune selection, fatigue or maybe just an off night.
It took midway through the set for things to really come alive via the intro to “Thorn In My Pride”. Rich Robinson took over the lead guitar and brought the band careening through peaks and valleys with dynamic runs. “Soul Singing” and “Sting Me” pumped up the energy with Chris Robinson displaying his best singing, but the set ended quickly as the band wove “Hard To Handle” into “Hush”. The encore cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Hey Hey What Can I Do” made people happy as they exited and with two more nights at Terminal 5 (and a month of touring left) the band may pull out some scorchers but on this night things never took off, here’s hoping the break makes them stronger.