A reminder: You have until December 19, at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco—the last date on the Black Crowes‘ fall tour—to catch the best acid-country, electric-blues and double-guitar-ballet road show of the season.
At two of the five shows they played last week at the Best Buy Theater in New York City, the band hit the opposite pockets in their covers bag, with brave results. On November 4, the acoustic set was practically a Gram Parsons tribute, with back-to-back versions of “Hot Burrito #1” and “Hot Burrito #2,” from the Flying Burrito Brothers’ 1969 album, The Gilded Palace of Sin, and a dip back further to William Bell’s 1961 Stax ballad “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” which Parsons brought to the Byrds for 1968’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Then, in the electric half of the November 5 show, guitarist Rich Robinson drew a shocked whoop from the crowd with the sunlight harmonics and upward-fret sweep of Pink Floyd’s “Fearless” from 1971’s Meddle.
“We like to go deep,” Rich said backstage after that show. In New York, the Crowes went there with fluid ingenuity and bravado, making good on singer Chris Robinson‘s promise in a pre-tour interview to keep their hits in flux by throwing songs back and forth between the hootenanny and electric halves. On the 4th, “Wiser Time” and “Thorn in My Pride” came in the second set, with Rich and guitarist Luther Dickinson tangling at length in wah-wah growls and high peals of liquid fuzz. The next night, both songs came in the first set, with Rich switching to a white electric Gibson SG near the end of “Wiser Time,” kicking it up to an exultant finish.
Other hymns of inspiration included Delaney and Bonnie’s “Poor Elijah-Tribute to Johnson” and the Velvet Underground’s “Oh! Sweet Nuthin'” on the 4th (electric), the Rolling Stones’ “No Expectations” on the 5th (acoustic) and the Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and Little Feat’s “Willin'” the same night as encores. The Crowes also pined and swaggered through their fine recent work: the earthy Warpaint soul of “Locust Street” and the weeping guitars and country rock sigh of “Appasloosa” and the late-seventies Rolling Stones gallop of “I Ain’t Hiding,” both from Before the Frost.
Between the two nights, we got 43 songs over six hours, with all of the wide open playing and psychedelic delight the math implies. This is one road, though, that won’t go on forever. On November 6, their final night in New York before an indefinite hiatus, the Crowes encored with a little more Stones: “The Last Time.” I wish it wasn’t.