The Black Crowes Play The Historic Alabama Theatre
A few notes on last night's Black Crowes show...
The Alabama Theatre is a one of a kind building. Built in 1927, this historic theatre with Spanish architecture serves as a city landmark. They were going to tear the building down years ago, but the good people of Birmingham banded together to keep this historic theatre open.
On Saturday, November 15, 2008, The Black Crowes brought their own blend of rock and roll to the Alabama Theatre. I was given two All Access passes and tickets to the show by Luther Dickinson. My technical assistant Robin and I drove to Birmingham from Atlanta for this show.
The first person I saw in Birmingham was Crowes keyboardist Adam MacDougall talking on his cell phone on the street corner. The band's buses and truck were parked beside the theatre. I stopped, he recognized me, we shook hands and I told him I'd see him later. It was a cold night in Birmingham. I must say, the theatre's staff people were a friendly bunch and I'd like to mention their hospitality.
We met Luther at the back door and he took us to the green room. He said to help ourselves and we sat down at the table to talk. I mentioned to him Stanley Booth told me he saw Luther in New York City at the William Eggleston exhibit. "Yeah man, we were talking about you. It was cool."
I gave Luther a copy of Dust To Digital's Anthology of The String Bass. Luther introduced me to a couple of his friends. One who told me my Georgia Bulldogs barely beat the Auburn Tigers. The Alabama game was on the radio sitting on one of the catering tables. The locals were keeping up with the game.
We stood beside Chris Robinson on the side of the stage as the opening band, The Buffalo Killers, played. They're a strong trio and I recommend checking them out. I asked Chris if he finished reading the Cormac McCarthy book I gave him in Chattanooga. He told me he hadn't finished it yet. As always, he gave me the soul brother shake. I'd like to extend a nod and wink to The Crowes sound guy, Drew, who allowed me to take as many photos as I wanted and allowed us to stand on the lip of the stage.
The Crowes, along with Widespread Panic, symbolize my generation's Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin...no other contemporary bands exist with such a longstanding influence. Panic plays here at the Alabama Theatre on November 21st. The theatre will be showing The Rolling Stones' Shine A Light film on the 22nd. Birmingham is always ready for rock and roll...
At this point in the tour, The Crowes are a runaway locomotive. They've hit a stride. Chris Robinson once wrote about The Crowes' musical intentions back in 1993: "You love Gram Parsons a lot, because he turned The Stones onto country music and also because of his vision of Cosmic American Music, this mystical place where jazz, blues and country all converge--a location where all the musical bloodlines of your country can be experienced and enjoyed."
The setlist in Birmingham proved an eclectic blend of songs. The Crowes were in high spirits. Steve Gorman continues to provide the solid backbeat to the band's sound. Sven Pipien, the bassist, contributes melodic lines that allow the Crowes to swing. Adam, the new keyboardist, continues to lock into The Crowes extensive song catalogue as well as cover songs. Luther's fluid playing and blues-background lends a organic tone to the Crowes sound. Rich Robinson never ceases to amaze in his ability to write memorable songs and serve as one of the country's best guitar players. The Crowes back-up singers Charity and Mona Lisa always add soulful texture to the mix. Chris plays more guitar these days, and tonight he played an acoustic for "Polly".
The setlist comprised of four songs from Amorica. They only played three songs from the new album, which was unusual because on this tour, Warpaint, remains a staple in almost every setlist. Robin and I stood on the side of the stage for the entire show. I don't feel it would be professional to cite who all was standing backstage and on the side stage and I wouldn't betray the band's trust, but it was a group of very friendly folks and they were all stars in their own right.
The poster art for the band's performance at the Alabama Theatre was outstanding, so I wanted to include the photo. Luther and I kept up our traditional photo shot. I shot about 40 photos during the night. Tonight the Crowes are playing in Nashville at The Ryman Auditorium. After the show we said goodnight before The Crowes got on the bus to drive to Nashville. We walked out into the cold Birmingham night. It was another great evening in the continuing Black Crowes saga...The final chapter for the Crowes Warpaint tour to soon follow...