The Black Crowes have finally found their concert comfort zone, a place where the endless jams of the recent past have given way to smartly arranged sets of variant music where the song is now as much the key as the strange trip.
At the decorative Pantages — with its eye-catching architecture and detail-heavy design, an appropriate venue for the many stoners in the crowd — the road-polished Crowes played a buoyant show that clocked in at just under two hours, but thanks to a broad mix of songs and seamless execution (singer Chris Robinson only spoke to the audience four times, to say “Thank-you”), a show that seemed much shorter than that.
The Atlanta-based band mixed such older, R&B-flavored gems as their latest version of “Hard to Handle,” the infectious “Twice as Hard” and the raunchy “Sting Me,” with the shocking psychedelia of “How Much For Your Wings” and the junkie-filled “Nebakanezer,” both songs from the Crowes’ recent “Three Snakes and One Charm” (American) album.
Having finally shed the celebrity spotlight and the accompanying distractions that nearly caused their break-up, the band is uncharacteristically loose on stage these days, though quite purposeful. Focused throughout, they moved cleverly from a passionate reading of the Rolling Stones’ “Torn & Frayed” to their own Latin-flavored, off-timed twist, “High Head Blues,” with nary a blink.
Even their somewhat dull take on “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” was charming considering the players’ obvious reverence for the song of the South.
With seemingly nothing left to prove, the Black Crowes have settled down to become the creative and ever-evolving band they always wanted to be, and, in concert, the moving and fun band they always should have been.