Chris Robinson guaranteed “a soulful, rockin’, funky good time.” As The Crow Flies delivered that and more as they perform at Manchester Music Hall in Lexington.
It has been 5 years since Chris Robinson played the vast majority of songs from The Black Crowes era of his career. Since the acrimonious breakup of the band he founded with his brother Rich, his creative focus has been thrown into The Chris Robinson Brotherhood. After years of writing, recording and touring with CRB, Robinson found a short window to put together a one-off, 17 date tour with musicians he has worked with both currently and in the past, including Audley Freed and bassist Andy Hess of The Black Crowes as well as Adam MacDougall and drummer Tony Leone of CRB. The very reason for As The Crow Flies coming together is to give Robinson an opportunity to revisit the songs he wrote and sang with The Black Crowes, returning to his role as frontman/singer and leaving his guitar behind for this tour. 23-year-old blues/soul guitar phenom Marcus King was brought on to complete the lineup of this superband. In January, when announcing this project and upcoming tour, Chris Robinson promised that “a soulful, rockin’ funky good time is guaranteed.” The sold-out crowd at Lexington’s Manchester Music Hall arrived in force, prepared for an epic performance and they were not disappointed.
Any show that begins with Chris Robinson walking out on stage, grabbing the mic stand and launching into “Remedy”, is destined to be a barnburner and tonight is no exception. Within seconds of the very first note being played, the crowd is ignited. The faithful, who can’t imagine a Black Crowes music without Chris Robinson’s vocals, is in heaven as the next 2 hours unfold. The focus of the set is definitely the powerhouse tunes the fans know and love, such as “Sting Me”, “She Talks to Angels”, “Twice as Hard” and “Jealous Again”. In true Black Crowes form, however, are a few covers that are well in line with the vibe of the night. One stand out cover, which was actually performed by the Crowes, is monster hit and Otis Redding cover, “Hard to Handle” melding into Deep Purple’s “Hush” before concluding with the last bit of Hard to Handle. Another noteworthy choice, is Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Almost Cut My Hair”, a 1970 hippie era protest anthem relating the dilemma of cutting your hair to be accepted by the Establishment or leaving it long in protest. No need ask where Chris Robinson stands on that subject.
As the night progresses, the band sinks their teeth into some of the colossal jam bits of songs such as “Wiser Time” and “Thorn in My Pride” as Chris Robinson steps back to a spot in front of Tony Leone’s drum kit, allowing Marcus King and Audley Freed to play off one another, each providing some breathtaking solos. Not one for words, As the Crow Flies are content to let the music do the talking during this show, and it speaks in a language that this enthusiastic crowd understands well. There are deafening roars of excitement for both the “hits” and the non-FM radio favorites such as “Nonfiction”, “Good Friday” and “High Head Blues”. Robinson is in constant motion throughout the night, dancing in his signature manner, clapping and smiling. It is evident that there is a freedom and a joy in playing this music that is transferred to the crowd. The night ends with a rip-roaring rendition of Rick Derringer’s “Rock n Roll Hoochi Koo” which leaves the audience of hot and sweaty fans with a feeling that it all went by too quickly.