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The Black Crowes
A Concert Review
[More Photos From the Concert]

October 6, 1996

The Aragon Ballroom

Chicago, IL

A Review and Photos by
The Dude on the Right
Chris Robinson - in the spotlight
Chris Robinson - in the spotlight!
I'm listening to the radio the day after I saw the Black Crowes in Chicago. The band played two shows, a weekend gig if it would be, one Saturday and the one I saw on Sunday. Anyway, on the radio, they start talking about the problems at the Saturday show and the local newspaper review and I'm saying to myself "Self, what, did all of the local punks go to the first show and all the nice kids (well, all expect for the guy who threw a beer-but we'll get to that later) go to the Sunday show?" It seems that at the Saturday show Chris Robinson started lecturing, although I don't know if lecturing is the right word, but he was telling the crowd to chill out and enjoy the music and to not crush the people who were standing near the front. Everyone I hear is wailing on Chris Robinson, saying they had no idea what he was talking about because it didn't look to them like anyone was in trouble - all except one radio caller who said she was in the front and felt like she was being crushed against the barrier in front of the stage. Maybe Chris saw something these other folks didn't - but in any case, the reviewer panned the show. I wasn't there, and I have seen some good and not so good shows by the Black Crowes, but I'll tell you this one - Sunday's show was probably the best I have seen them. But, let's start at the beginning.

I make my way into the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago to find hundreds of teenagers sitting cross-legged on the floor patiently waiting for the show to begin. I thought it was so cute, almost reminiscent of kindergarten. All we needed were some floor mats and little blankets and it would almost look like nap time. I thought back to the last show I saw the Black Crowes, the one they did at Navy Pier as a kinda tour-prep show, and wondered if they have polished things up since then - that was sort of why they did those shows in the first place. This night they did, they most definitely did.

I take my spot and listen to the opening act God Street Wine, (who were pretty good I must add, although I didn't know any of their songs except a cover of "Dear Prudence" but I thought they almost had a Dead style feel, the crowd like them and I'd like to see them again in a place where the acoustics weren't as bad as the Ballroom is - but I digress - back to the Crowes). Anyway, the Black Crowes come out and one thing strikes me - this is the happiest I think I have ever seen this band. They must have had a good nights sleep or something because Chris and the boys were just this big old bundle of energy. I'm told they started off with "One Mirror Too Many" and continued for about an hour and forty-five minutes of a show that didn't spotlight many of their radio hits, but a show that had the fans loving every minute of it.

 
Chris Robinson
Sportin' this cool Chicago Cubs jersey with the Grateful Dead logo on it, Chris Robinson brought the band through one of the best Crowes shows I've seen. The band was on, the crowd worked with them, and there didn't seem to be anything that was going to spoil this show. I'm listening to great versions of "Shake Your Moneymaker," "Good Friday," and an extended version of "Thorn In My Pride" shifting from song to drum solo to harmonica solo to adding a little guitar to some organ/keyboards to one big ol' band jam and bag to the song. It was very cool, and unlike some other shows I've seen, their extended instrumental jams worked this time. As I'm enjoying the show, and the crowd is too, I'm noticing things too and wondering just what all those symbols mean that the band has on the "pillars" covering the light wiring and on the monitors, why they have this dude dressed like a monk fixing things on stage, and that the symbol with the three snakes sure looks a hell of a lot like those yellow inserts I used to put in the big hole on my 45's so they would play on the phonograph. Just some thoughts I ponder. Now, as good as this show was going, it hit a detour.

 
Chris
Midway through, I believe the song was "Cursed Diamond," the monitors for the band went dead and Chris says politely "I think we blew everything up." The band calmly left the stage, said to wait around until things get fixed, and the crowd nicely waited for the band to return - and return they did for a jammin' version of "Bring On, Bring On" - up until some, oh hell, asshole, decided it would be cool to throw a beer cup at Mr. Robinson. Let's just say he wasn't too pleased, threw down his mike stand, stormed off stage, and the rest of the band followed. The house lights came up and I thought this was a really crappy way to end what was a really great show.

Well, the crowd wasn't leaving - they didn't care if the lights were on or not. Nope, enough cheers and the lights went back off and the band made it's way back to the stage. To this I thought it was really cool of the band because I've heard of other "we're holier than thou" bands that would have just quit. Chris goes "It's not like I have a fuckin' Packers jersey on you know!" (who, by the way, earlier in the day, pummeled the Bears) and the band wrapped up the show with a great version of "Jealous Again" and finished with a great cover of the Stones "Happy."

All in all, without the couple of interruptions, I thought this one of the best shows I've seen the Black Crowes put on. The musical interludes were great but not too extended, and they didn't even play many of the radio hits but still had the crowd dancin' the entire night. It was cool and the Black Crowes get TWO BIG THUMBS UP!!

I've heard how the Crowes want to kinda try to take the place of the Grateful Dead - having a legion of fans, have every show be different, and not really bow to the radio and music video people. They have a good start, but unless the crowd at Saturday's show was older it's going to take a few years for this to develop. The crowd at Sunday's show was definitely younger, looking like they had just gotten their drivers licenses, let alone be able to follow a band around the country. In a few years, if the band can maintain and develop their fan base, they shouldn't have a problem. These fans will be old enough to become disgruntled college students or professionals who need a way to escape for a few weeks - what better way than following a band around the country - and if the Black Crowes can keep it up - what better band to do it for.

That's it for this one - I'm The Dude on the Right. L8R!!

 

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