There’s no question that Chris Robinson’s voice is at the heart of the Black Crowes’ sound, but younger brother, guitarist Rich Robinson, has always been the band’s backbone.
Last Thursday night, Young Rich (“Not so young anymore,” he responded to a fan yelling out his nickname) drove his solo project band into Club Helsinki, and not surprisingly, the two-hour show focused on his new album, “Through a Crooked Sun.” That the songs from the album – which had been released just two days earlier – made up more than half of his set list may sound like a daunting prospect for the crowd, but that really wasn’t the case.
While the songs were brand new, the sound certainly wasn’t. The flashback mode was in full effect. Launching into the opening “It’s Not Easy,” my concert companion Dennis said, “They sound like every opening act at the Fillmore,” after a moment’s pause adding, “And I don’t mean that in a bad way.”
Indeed. And we proceded to dissect and debate the various primary influences…
“Lost and Found”: “Traffic,” I offered. “No, more Blind Faith,” Dennis countered. Either way, that Steve Winwood sound came to the fore.
“Leave It Alone” (one of only two songs that he offered from his 2004 solo debut “Paper”): The source was clearly Steve Miller. “Yeah, but not the really bad Steve Miller,” Dennis clarified. “The early stuff.”
“I Don’t Hear the Sound of You”: Tom Petty, at least until the song veered off into an extended instrumental jazz sizzle.
“All Along the Way”: Van Morrison with Procol Harum-ish keys.
“Bye Bye Baby”: An epic (not necessarily in a good way) slide guitar-fueled, jazz/jam-band performance. “They’re headed into Grateful Dead territory,” I proposed. “No, more Allman Brothers,” Dennis corrected.
“Yesterday I Saw You” (the other song from “Paper”): “The Grateful Dead covering Humble Pie,” Dennis said.
Robinson and his band – drummer Joe Magistro, bassist Brian Allen* and Particle keyboardist Steve Molitz – certainly exhibited a pretty broad range of styles – from jazz to straight-up blues (the back-to-back “Look Through My Window” and “By the Light of the Sunset Moon”) to deep dish prog-rock (“Standing On the Surface of the Sun”), and they had a good, solid handle on nearly all of it.
And if you can peg a band by the covers they play, Rich Robinson’s crew is quite a slippery bunch, as they dipped into the songbags of Gram Parsons (a beautiful “She”), Procol Harum (a thick, lumbering stomp through “Cerdes”), early Fleetwood Mac (“Station Man” with a bit of a Grateful Dead “Casey Jones” vibe), Robert Johnson (a sweet, slow, slide-guitar serendae of “Love in Vain”) and the Velvet Underground (the final encore of “Oh Sweet Nuthin’,” also a semi-staple of the Black Crowes in concert).
* = Yes, Brian Allen was Rich Robinson’s bassist rather than Troy’s own Jack Daley, who had been advertised as performing. We here at Nippertown deeply apologize for passing along the bad intel.
Review assistance by Dennis Herbert
Photograph by Gene Sennes
RICH ROBINSON SET LIST
It’s Not Easy
Lost And Found
I Don’t Hear the Sound of You
Leave It Alone
Look Through My Window
By The Light of The Sunset Moon
She (Gram Parsons)
All Along the Way
Cerdes (Outside the Gates Of) (Procol Harum)
Standing On the Surface of the Sun
Bye Bye Baby
Station Man (Fleetwood Mac)
Love in Vain (Robert Johnson)
Yesterday I Saw You
Oh Sweet Nuthin’ (Velvet Underground)