By Jenny Peters and Andy J. Gordon
Near the end of their brief tour, As The Crow Flies brought the music and hippie vibe of The Black Crowes to an enthusiastic audience at The Wiltern on May 9, 2018. Chris Robinson, the lead vocalist and one of the founding members of The Black Crowes, led a six-piece band of expert musicians through an incredibly energetic set of classic songs and special covers.
A sibling rivalry can be a funny thing. When two talented brothers make beautiful music together, but fight like cats and dogs, it can be wonderful and pitiful at the same time. Such is the case with the Robinson boys. Chris and his brother, guitarist Rich Robinson, formed the nucleus for the great, blues-based rock band The Black Crowes that saw major success from the 1990s through their breakup in 2015.
After years of feuding, once they officially split Chris vowed to stop playing Crowes songs, and to stick to new material and stay away from his brother. He has done that with his Chris Robinson Brotherhood band. Rich, on the other hand, has continued to perform Crowes songs with his solo project and the recently formed Magpie Salute. All well and good, as fans enjoy the new material from both bands and still love to hear the old classics from Rich. However, Chris has not been shy about his disdain for Rich and his decision. He has flamed his brother on social media and during interviews calling his recent work a “Black Crowes tribute band.”
Things got very interesting in January 2018 when Chris announced he was launching a one-off, 17 show mini-tour with As The Crow Flies. That’s right, a new band playing Black Crowes songs, with a tour that kicked off on April 17. Chris Robinson told Rolling Stone that “It’s only these shows. We’re not going in the studio. We’re not unleashing another leg at the end of this. It is just a little celebration of those songs with this group of people.” We are not sure about Rich Robinson’s reaction, but at the As The Crow Flies show at the Wiltern, fans in attendance were strongly in favor of Chris’ decision.
The new group fronted by Chris Robinson includes guitarists Audley Freed and Marcus King, drummer Tony Leone, bassist Andy Hess and keyboardist Adam MacDougall. Hess and MacDougall were former members of the Black Crowes. King is a highly touted young guitar slasher with his own band who was discovered and mentored by Warren Haynes. Leone and MacDougall are also in the Chris Robinson Brotherhood.
As many fans crowded the stage wearing Black Crowes t-shirts and hippie attire, the new band opened with a scorching “Remedy.” The blistering, guitar-heavy set included several Crowes classics like “Sometimes Salvation,” “Good Friday,” “Thorn In My Pride,” “Wiser Time” and “She Talks to Angels.”
They also squeezed in Crosby Stills Nash & Young’s “Almost Cut My Hair” and saved a couple of unexpected covers for the end of the show. Robinson belted out the tunes, played harmonica and danced while the band dove into solos. King and Freed played some intricate and explosive guitar licks that drew thunderous applause. MacDougall also played some haunting organ explorations.
As the show approached the end, the opening chords of “Jealous Again” drew loud yells and whistles from the crowd. “Hard to Handle” followed and after an intense King solo, Robinson segued into Joe South’s “Hush,” which drew a sing-along from the audience for the “Na, Na, Na, Na” portion of the song. The band then segued back to the conclusion of “Hard to Handle” to close the set.
The group only left the stage for a few minutes. As they geared up, Robinson announced “a special Los Angeles encore.” The band launched into The Doors’ “Peace Frog,” a nice choice since The Doors became legendary in the 60s during early shows at the Whiskey A Go Go, a club just up the road from the Wiltern.
While the As The Crow Flies tour may be near its end, it is obvious that The Black Crowes songbook has held up over time and that Chris Robinson must keep playing the songs that so many people love. The tour wraps up on May 13 in Portland, Oregon. We hope Chris Robinson and whatever lineup he chooses will continue to play the old songs. It would also be great if the Robinson brothers could bury the hatchet and play together again sometime in the future.