As The Crow Flies at Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA, April 18, 2018,

May 15, 2018 Photography by Stuart Levine Web Exclusive
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I thought I'd never hear these songs again. At least not sung by The Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson.

When Robinson announced a short tour in between commitments for his current band, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, where he would be singing all Black Crowes songs and revisiting the hits, it seemed too good to be true. One was almost waiting for the "Oh, never mind" Buffalo Springfield 2011 moment, where that classic band planned a tour only to scuttle it before it started. But this was no flight of fancy. To be fair, this is not exactly a Black Crowes reunion. Robinson and his brother Rich, the two forever Crowes, have not been on speaking terms in years and, without Rich on this jaunt, there was less chance of ugly feelings rearing their ugly head. Robinson maintained that he felt reinvigorated performing his old songs at a few solo gigs in 2017 and decided to take the show on the road, dubbing the project As The Crow Flies.

As such, Robinson recruited a crack band to back him-guitarists Marcus King and Audley Freed, keyboardist Adam MacDougall, bassist Andy Hess, and drummer Tony Leone. MacDougall and Leone play with Robinson in Chris Robinson Brotherhood. Hess played with Robinson in The Black Crowes in the late '90s. And Marcus King, who fronts his own outfit, The Marcus King Band, which will be joining Tedeschi Trucks Band and Drive-By Truckers on the road this summer, rounded out the group with some younger blood.

On the tour's second night, in Philadelphia, PA, Robinson proved that this revisiting of his Black Crowes catalog was not just a whim. For two full hours, Robinson and his band ran through his best-known Crowes songs like there would be no tomorrow.

Five songs from 1990's Shake Your Money Maker. Four from its follow up, and perhaps the Black Crowes' best record, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. Two from 1994's Amorica, and one each from '96's Three Snakes and One Charm and '99's By Your Side. Add in a handful of extras and the night was like no other.

Throughout, Robinson sang his heart out, improvising some but generally hewing closely to the melodies of the original tracks. Most strikingly, the addition of guitarist King and Freed, and especially King, lent a distinctly heavier southern rock edge to these songs. King's solos sounded like something a la prime Lynyrd Skynyrd all night.

"By Your Side" and "Good Friday," excellent songs on lesser Crowes albums, were heard anew. "Wiser Time" was extended into a thrilling, emotive 18-minute jam with winding hypnotic intro and killer keyboard solo by MacDougall. Perhaps the biggest cheers of the night came with the cover of David Crosby's "Almost Cut My Hair," which featured alternating guitarist solos, each receiving his own individual ovation.  

The band cut its last track with Deep Purple's "Hush," playing the entire song in the middle of "Hard to Handle" before resuming its own most well known track to conclude the set proper. The band came back out for an encore of Ten Years After's "I'd Love to Change the World." But by this time, the catharsis was already complete. Chris Robinson had returned to The Black Crowes, if only for one night. Each song was a revelation. Robinson has made it clear that Chris Robinson Brotherhood continues to be his main gig. But let's all hope he makes this a regular side act.




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