Black Crowes: Is rock dead?  No, rock is alive!

Black Crowes: Is rock dead? No, rock is alive!

It is said in many quarters that rock is dead, yet attending a show of Black Crowes it seems like the genre (at least that genre) doesn't even have a slight ailment.

In a straight hour and a half of concert the two Robinson brothers “disheveled” the audience at the Arcimboldi theater in Milan with a wave of solos and lightning guitar riffs and an excellent performance from the frontman who attracted attention.

The audience of enthusiasts, not very young, really enjoyed it and although the theater audience allowed for a comfortable seat, no one bothered to keep their seat and then, as in a club, everyone stood up dancing and followed the rhythm of the band. After all, it was the same Chris Robinson as soon as he went on stage to invite the audience to get up and “physically” participate in the show.

Introduced by the notes of “It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)” (of Ac/Dc) the band took possession of a beautiful stage spread over two levels. The drums, keyboards and two backing singers were placed on the upper one. At stage level, in front of a wall of amplifiers in which the Marshalls, the two guitarists, the bassist and the singer, behind whom there was a mirror, were on display. On stage, in addition to the band, there was another great presence: a life-size cardboard cutout of Chuck Berry bent over his guitar in the classic duck step. Above the heads of the musicians a banner with the words “Happiness Bastards” the title of their latest album and on the sides of the scene some drapes coming down from the ceiling. Light(s) hanging from wires gave an effect reminiscent of a circus “big top” or the scene of a rural show.

Once on stage the band grinds out incessant rock at high volume and high potential. The solos follow one another and intertwine with the guitar riffs. The two guitarists (Rich Robinson and the Argentine Nico Bereciartua) quickly swap roles, passing solos in a sort of dribble, sometimes their riffs overlap and create a compact and very robust wall of sound. Also noteworthy is the presence of the returnee Sven Pipien on bass, in the band since 1998, between entries and exits, between stops and starts.

On this sound basis (the acoustic performance was not perfect) there is then the presence of Chris, a true star. The singer, born in 1966 (his brother was born in '69), is unstoppable, both while he sings and in the instrumental parts. He moves, discusses with the audience, shakes the pole, dances, juggles, manages to capture attention at every moment of the concert. It's almost impossible to take your eyes off him.

The Black Crowes are a great music machine, grinding out one song after another without ever giving up and leaving room for just one ballad, “She Talks To Angels” in which Rich abandons the electric guitar for an acoustic one (Bereciartua doesn't give it up on this occasion either). Each song, some briefly introduced by Chris, corresponds to an ovation from the audience, including those taken from “Happiness Bastard” the record that saw the band return to a release after 15 years.

The setlist draws mainly from the last album but rewinds the tape to the first three albums (1990, 92 and 94) and makes a point to 2008 (“Warpaint”). Then there are three covers: in the encores “God's Got It” (by Reverend Charlie Jackson), the inevitable “Hard to Handle” (by Otis Redding) and the dive into the most vital rock'n'roll with the classic “High School Confidential” signed Jerry Lee Lewis. On at least two occasions one is hit by a high-speed train: first with the very long and varied “Thorn in My Pride” complete with harmonica and infinite solos, then with “Sting Me” another wall of sound “crushing”.

In short, Jimmy Page was right a few days ago when he “reviewed” the London concert on social media and defined it as “such a pleasant and exciting performance”… and he (who also played there with the Black Crowes) is someone who it's long. But then, here and there in the concert, LED Zeppelin pops up.

Let's borrow the words of Neil Young from his “Hey Hey, My My” when he says “Rock and roll can never die”.


Bedside Manners
Dirty Cold Sun
Twice as Hard
Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution
Sister Luck
Cross Your Fingers
High School Confidential
Thorn in My Pride
Wanting and Waiting
Hard to Handle
She Talks to Angels
Follow the Moon
Sting Me
Jealous Again

God's Got It