Picture Show: Chris Robinson Brotherhood

Chris Robinson Brotherhood @ Irving Plaza, November 17

Words: Scott Bernstein
Photos: Jeremy Gordon

Chris Robinson has never been the type of musician who disappears for a few years, so in 2010 when the Black Crowes announced that they would begin an “indefinite hiatus” following an extremely lengthy tour, you had to figure the shaggy-haired singer wouldn’t spend that time on a beach in Hawaii. Yet, what was surprising was how quickly he put together a new band and how hard that group, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, hit the road in 2011. Eight months of touring, with few breaks, have done wonders for the CRB’s chemistry, though at Irving Plaza last Thursday night the group showed you need more than chemistry and talent to keep an audience on its toes for three hours.

[All Photos by Jeremy Gordon]

Over the course of two lengthy sets, the five-piece barely changed tempo as they worked through a mix of Robinson’s originals and a smattering of covers that included a take on the Grateful Dead’s Bertha and Crash On The Levee from The Basement Tapes. Clearly Robinson and his talented crew are going for the mid-tempo ’70s country-rock vibe, but outside of a killer rendition of Ride from the underrated New Earth Mud LP and the upbeat chestnut Rosalee, the lack of dynamics made for moments of boredom. Up until Ride started towards the end of the second set the crowd seemed to be begging for a change of pace that took forever to come.

Now, there’s plenty to love about this group. Chris Robinson didn’t put his guitar down the whole evening and showed flashes of brilliance as a rhythm player and even displayed a knack for putting together a cohesive solo during the rare chances he had to play lead. Yet the guitar hero on this night was former Ryan Adams and the Cardinals axe man Neal Casal, whose sweet, earthy tone on the Gibson SG brought comparisons to early ’70s Garcia, even when he wasn’t playing Bertha. Casal delivered one stirring lead after another, egged on by Adam MacDougall, a keyboardist who worked many weird and wonderful vintage tones into the mix.   It’s just that the mid-tempo pace got monotonous after a while and the one burst of energetic rocking that dotted each set wasn’t enough to make me want to spend another three hours watching this band.

Set One: Let’s Go, Tomorrow Blues, Tumbleweed In Eden, Never Been To Spain, Star Or Stone, Bertha, Silver Car, Rosalee

Set Two: Girl On The Mountain, Crash On The Levee, Reflections On A Broken Mirror, Roll Old Jeremiah, Vibration & Light Suite, Ride, Last Place That Love Lives, Sunday Sound

Encore: Catfish John, Got Love If You Want It

[via Chris Robinson Brotherhood Facebook]

Here’s a full gallery of Jeremy Gordon’s snaps…

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