Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Black Crowes - 07/03/08 @Theatre of Living Arts, Phladelphia, PA


1. Goodbye Daughters Of The Revolution (new album)
2. Remedy
3. Jam -> Black Moon Creeping
4. Oh Josephine (new album)
5. Soul Singin'
6. Whoa Mule (new album)
7. You Don't Miss Your Water (unreleased bonus track from new album)
8. Rockin' Chair (The Band)
9. Poor Elijah /Tribute To Robert Johnson (Medley) (Eric Clapton)
10. God's Got It (new album)
11. Movin' On Down The Line (new album)
12. Wiser Time
13. Only A Fool
14. Hard To Handle (Otis Redding)
15. Wounded Bird (new album)
- encore -
16. Hung Upside Down (Buffalo Springfield)
17. Keep On A Knockin' (1st time played) (Little Richard)

As you can see from the setlist above, out of 17 songs 12 of them were either covers, rarities, or songs from the new album, Warpaint. Only 5 other songs + Hard To Handle (cover) were from the prime 1989-2001 years. The only real highlights in the set for me was the Jam into "Black Moon Creeping", a great version of "Soul Singing", and "Only A Fool" from the notoriously short-shrifted but great 1999 album By Your Side. They hadn't played this song in over 3 years and only a handful of times since their 1999 Souled Out tour wrapped up. And during "God's Got It", drummer Steve Gorman came out and played a big drum strapped to him and hanging in front - the kind marching bands use. And on it was a picture of George W. Bush with a black eye. They never really commented on it, but they didn't have to.

But those few high points weren't enough to make up for the rest of the 2-hour show. "Hard to Handle", the only song from their debut album to get played at any of the 3 Philly shows, is probably my least favorite of their well-known songs. One, it's a cover and two, it was just completely overplayed when it came out and didn't age well, in my opinion.

Tracks 6 thru 9 were performed acoustically with the band seated. This brought the encouraging early momentum of the show to a screeching halt. And it kind of never really got back on my track for me after that.

I respect a band who does what they want to do and just hopes the fans come along for the ride. That's what someone like Wilco has done for the better part of a decade. But their live shows are always full of enough songs to satisfy all of their fans.

And what a band like the Rolling Stones and U2 now do - playing the same 25 or 30 crowd-pleasing songs just about every show is kind of the opposite of what rock and roll is all about. But they have to do that to justify charging $100, I guess. There has to be a happy medium between what the Stones or U2 do and what the Black Crowes currently do. I'm not saying I want the same hit-laden 25-song, 2 hour set every night. But it'd be nice to know that a fan like myself, who owns every song they've ever recorded, would know more than 2/3 of their setlist at show. Every once in a while, it's nice to leave a show and wonder what that song was that one of your favorite bands just played. Then you go home and Google some of the lyrics and uncover a new obscure cover. But after this show I needed to do that for about 40% of the setlist..

A band like Pearl Jam has found that happy medium that has so far eluded the Black Crowes since around 1999. They play varied setlists, often reviving old songs, but still playing enough of the old favorites to try to make both casual fans and diehards happy. I always pick nits with them too (they play "Even Flow" too often, their encores almost always include "Yellow Ledbetter" and "Rockin' in the Free World", etc.), but generally there is always enough in the rest of the set to send me home happy. That's why they offer the best live music experience of any band of their generation. You'll get a 2:30+ set that is unique compared to other shows and most fans will know and love most of the songs played.

And it would be so easy for the Black Crowes to placate fans like me by maybe replacing one cover or rarity during the middle of the set and both songs in the encore with old crowd favorites. And then people like me would cut them more slack and perhaps go back to see them again in the future, knowing there'd be a few scraps tossed their way. People would leave on a high note. But this is the 3rd show in a row I was disappointed with setlist. The show at Penns Landing in July '06 and now the TLA show from last week were both very disappointing. And the one at the Tower Theatre in Sept '05 was only saved by the fact that the Tower was a such a great venue and they played for over 3 hours with an intermission, so they had ample time to fill in the set with a lot of the crowd favorites, mixed in with the usual high percentage of obscure covers and rarities.

My point is if you want to be self-indulgent and fuck around and play covers and unreleased songs, then go play a small venue and charge $12 or $15. Then fans will have lower expectations and people will feel like they have gotten their money's worth. For example most fans' memories of the Replacements' falling-down-drunk, cover-heavy sets from their early years have probably been over-romanticized over the last 2 decades. But if the band had more notoriety and could have commanded more money for a show back then, I'm not sure fans would remember these sets quite so fondly and cut them as much slack as they did.

If that is what the Black Crowes essentially have become, then stop playing up the past catalog when these shows are marketed to the public. The reason a band like the Black Crowes can play a venue like the TLA for 3 sold out shows and charge $50 a ticket (or larger venues for even more money per ticket if they chose to) is because of the fans they cultivated throughout the 1990's with a pretty impressive output of original songs. You can't have it both ways.

And anyway, Phish just announced they are reuniting, so all of the Deadheads who had no place to go for the better part of the last 12 years (and based on what I have experienced the last 7-8 years, were overpopulating Wilco and Black Crowes shows) will have somewhere else to go soon.

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