Originally released in 1990, The Black Crowes debut album Shake Your Money Maker was an out of the blue hit rock record in an era of Vanilla Ice, Wilson Phillips, and Mariah Carey. It’s also the band’s strongest album and the band would tour the world on the back of these songs for decades. Last week’s show at The Filene Center at Wolf Trap was a part of a Covid-delayed 30th anniversary tour of that album.
This version of the band only features two original members, the brothers Robinson, but they’re the ones that count. Flanked by lead singer Chris and guitarist Rich were drummer Brian Griffin, keyboardist Joel Robinow, guitarists Isaiah Mitchell and Charlie Starr, and bassist Sven Pipien, who has been in and out of the band since 1997.
The Money Maker material did not disappoint and sounded brilliant, with the band hitting all the right notes, showcasing the album in order. From the opening notes of “Twice As Hard” all the way through the frenetic finish of album closer “Stare It Cold,” the band played with verve and ambition.
Watch the official music video for “Twice As Hard” by The Black Crowes on YouTube:
Chris particularly was in great form, whirling around centerstage, totally being in the moment. Rich was a few steps to his left and honestly looked nonplussed the entire night, as is his wont. As great as the album tracks sounded, and make no mistake, they did, the setlist highlighted the drawbacks of the album-as-concert format. Sequencing albums is much different from sequencing a live show.
The post-Money Maker set was actually my favorite part of the night. It let the band stretch out a bit and control the tempo of the show a bit more. Highlights were Amorica’s “Wiser Time” and “Thorn in My Pride” from The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. These mid-tempo rockers offered something different from the Money Maker songs and let the band express themselves and jam out a bit. They also dropped a few non-“Hard to Handle” covers later in the set including The Undisputed Truth’s “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” and David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” to close out the show.
Howlin’ Rain opened the show and were a perfect scene-setter for the evening, wowing the crowd with their chops. The four piece wear their influences on their sleeve, all from the cream of ’70s rock – Allmans, Doobies, CCR, Steely Dan…you name it, they threw it in there. They liked to find the groove and ride it, only playing five or six songs in their 30 minute set.
Watch Howlin’ Rain perform “Dharma Wheel” live at Palomino on YouTube:
Here are some photos of The Black Crowes performing at Wolf Trap on June 23, 2022. All pictures copyright and courtesy of Kyle Gustafson.