by Robert Forte
Not too long ago it seemed to be a forgone conclusion that any hope of seeing the Black Crowes perform with one another again was going to be posted, at best, as one of hell of a longshot by the odds makers in Las Vegas.
Fast forward a few years since the band’s tumultuous dissolution in 2015 and fans of the Atlanta, Georgia southern rock and blues juggernaut suddenly find themselves with multiple options to enjoy the Black Crowes music once again in a live setting.
Rich Robinson, Marc Ford, Sven Pipien and the Magpie Salute already have a new record in the works after touring to great success throughout the entirety of 2017.
Since the Black Crowes disbanded, Chris Robinson, however, had conveyed on numerous occasions that he lacked any real burning desire to revisit the band’s vast catalogue beyond a random cover here and there.
Apparently the musical winds began to shift for the elder Robinson sometime last fall, as seemingly out of nowhere, the lead singer announced the formation of his own Black Crowes oriented project, As the Crow Flies.
Robinson smartly recruited former Crowes’ players Andy Hess, Adam MacDougall and Audley Freed to be a part of the As the Crow Flies flock.
Current Chris Robinson Brotherhood drummer Tony Leone and rising southern guitar hero Marcus King of the Marcus King Band were also brought in by Robinson to fill out the band’s initial lineup.
As the Crow Flies began their inaugural month and half long tour on the East Coast last week in New York and Pennsylvania respectively.
Night one of the tour at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester captivated the sold old audience. However, the performance also showed that the band was still working out the kinks in terms of their on stage chemistry as well as their mastery of playing the Crowes’ songbook with one another.
The following evening at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia saw the band explode into the musical stratosphere with the type of two- hour, sweat drenched, emotionally draining, ruckus rock and roll throw down most fans musical wet dreams are made of.
Thus, going into the As the Crow Flies performance at the Signal in Chattanooga, Tennessee this past Thursday, more than a week since their tour began, one would have expected the band to be even more locked in and functioning even more tightly as a cohesive unit.
Not only did the band deliver of those lofty expectations, their performance at the Signal proved to any naysayers that by the time the current tour reaches the West Coast in May, fans are going to be treated to the kind of freak and roll extravaganza that made the Black Crowes embraced globally by millions since the early 1990’s.
The Signal is one of Nashville-based Marathon Work’s new live music club venues that have begun to pop up throughout the southeastern corridor of the United States.
The freshly minted venue, situated in the heart of downtown Chattanooga, was filled to near capacity with an eclectic mix Black Crowes, Chris Robinson Brotherhood and even a healthy dose of Marcus King fans, all eagerly anticipating the band’s stop in their quaint southern enclave.
Shortly before the clock struck 10:00 PM Eastern Standard Time Robinson and company took to the Signal’s lighted stage launching into one of the Black Crowes most recognizable hits, “Remedy.”
The reaction from the crowd was electrifying as the energy they were producing seamlessly drifted back up onto the stage to further fuel the rock and roll spaceship that had just taken flight right before their very eyes.
Blistering takes on two other Southern Harmony and Musical Companion tracks followed in the forms of both “Sting Me” and “Hotel Illness,” before the band segued into what would be the first of several jaw dropping guitar based moments, starting with a resplendent take on “By Your Side.”
Greenville, South Carolina’s own Marcus King, had countless patrons looking on in wonderment as he unleashed licks any fan of previous Crowes’ ax men, such as Luther Dickinson and Marc Ford, would have had to have been impressed by.
It’s hard to believe King and Freed have been able to achieve the combustible level of guitar synergy they share with one another after spending such little time together prior to each of them joining As the Crow Flies.
Amorica’s “Wiser Time” provided the perfect opportunity for those in attendance to bare witness to the pair’s unique guitar symbiosis first hand.
The song initially took flight via MacDougall’s trippy keys styling’s before transitioning into King’s take on the song’s first monster lead. King slowly built the solo up before unleashing the type of guitar driven bravado and splendor fans of the Black Crowes have been salivating over for decades.
Not to be outdone, Lions era Black Crowes guitarist Audley Freed followed King’s bombast with his own southern fried guitar bluster that had fans’ dropping their jaws, feverishly dancing and high fiving one another throughout the venue.
Other highlight’s included a long and winding take on Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s, “Almost Cut My Hair,” that once again saw King and Freed trading splendiferous guitar blows, a more truncated but equally entertaining version of Black Crowes’ live staple, “Thorn in My Pride,” as well as the band’s rump shaking cover of the Rick Derringer classic, “Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo” that wound up serving as the evening’s musical swan song in Chattanooga.
Only time will tell if Robinson and company decide to carry on As the Crow Flies beyond the tour dates already scheduled on the calendar throughout the remainder of this spring.
By all accounts Robinson, as well as the other members of the band, have all committed to other projects beyond the tour’s last stop in Portland, Oregon at the Crystal Ballroom in a few weeks.
Although it seems a bit of stretch at this point to believe that fans will see As the Crow Flies tour more later this year, or in 2019 for that matter, it is worth mentioning again that Robinson himself was putting the kybosh on his involvement in any Black Crowes related project a mere six months ago.
Regarding any final thoughts on what fans should expect if they decide to spend a few of their hard earned dollars on a ticket to see As the Crow Flies in the flesh, a fan that attended the Signal performance in Chattanooga may have actually summed it up best,
“What a show! If that didn’t get you going, honey, I’m afraid you’re dead inside.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.