Chris Robinson Brotherhood at The Cap
Chris Robinson Brotherhood
The Capitol Theatre
Port Chester, NY
Whether with the Black Crowes, the current band that bears his name or alongside Phil Lesh, Chris Robinson has been one those artists playing a major part in the Capitol Theatre’s current live music renaissance, and on November 19th, CRB played two stellar sets at the historical venue. It was a night that went heavy on material from the band’s two most recent releases, Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel and If You Lived Here, You Would Be Home By Now, plus a handful of staples from previous albums and a few covers that including a debut of the Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll.”
The evening commenced with the cool sway of “New Cannonball Rag” which led into the hypnotic march of “Tomorrow Blues,” putting the band’s easy chemistry on display right from the get-go. Jeff Hill’s ebullient bass playing and Tony Leone’s loose-wristed kit crashing, along with Chris Robinson’s instinctive guitar rhythms served as the bedrock for Adam MacDougall’s warbling and meandering keyboard work and Neal Casal’s cosmic guitar solos. As always, Chris Robinson’s singular vocals exuded the kind of gut-felt soul and sincerity that complemented his vivid Joseph Campbell-meets-Robert Hunter lyrics.
The rest of the first set served up a variety of sonic flavors. The psychedelic troupe painted celestial Americana landscapes with “Roan County Banjo” and “Reflections on a Broken Mirror.” A cover of Joe Tex’s “I Want to Do (Everything For You)” coated southern soul with neon glow. As a crown of incense smoked from the dome of Possible Dust Clouds (the owl decoy perched on the sound equipment at each CRB show,) the infectious rockabilly boogie of “Little Lizzie Mae” electrified the crowd like a cup of Kool-Aid acid. The breezy “California Hymn” delivered on tie-dye gospel, and the band closed out the first set with a country rock twanger from the Byrds’ Gram Parsons era, dropping a bookin’ and cookin’ version of “Lazy Days.”
Following a blazing cover of Tony Joe White’s “Saturday Night In Oak Grove,” the second set went heavy on new material that have become live fixtures over the past year. “Leave My Guitar Alone” was a ramshackle rocker with the kick of a mule. On the Stonesy “Forever as a Moon,” Neal Casal’s guitar tone channeled Keith Richards circa the mid-seventies while Adam MacDougall evoked the late Billy Preston. The starry night ballad “Shadow Cosmos” floated on a river of tenderness and the playful “Ain’t Life Hard But Fair” bounced, grooved and sizzled.
Three of the band’s most ambitious space ranger epics closed out the second set. “Vibration and Light Suite” felt like an intergalactic expedition, eventually coming out of hyperspace and slowing things down with the intoxicating lava lamp funk of “Narcissus Soaking Wet,” complete with a harmonica breakdown courtesy of Chris Robinson. To close out the set was “Rosalee,” a high energy head trip from the band’s earliest days, in which the band snugly fit a cover of Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” (lyrically coming off like an autobiographical tale summing up the band’s five-year journey,) into the middle of the song.
The Cap performance was capped off with a debut cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll.” Perhaps it was meant to be a tribute to the Warhol beneficiaries who changed the face of music in nearby New York City half a century ago, or maybe it was just a fun song for the band to play, but with 2016 taking some of the finest rock and rollers away from us and giving us the election blues thanks to wins by Donald Trump other oppressive and regressive public officials, the song’s lyrics carried some extra weight. With many feeling the collective despair of the moment and uncertainty about the future, the band managed to remind us that “despite all the amputations” we somehow still have our rock and roll, and that is something to be thankful for, and that just maybe “it was alright.”