Sunday Night: The Black Crowes Begin Their Last Stand at the Fillmore

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Calibree Photography
The Black Crowes at the Fillmore last night.
The Black Crowes
December 12, 2010
@ The Fillmore

Better than:
That thing Martin Scorsese lugged a camera to.

To an Appalachian hillbilly transplant shivering through his first winter in the Bay Area, hearing that durable Southern rock road dogs The Black Crowes were finally hanging it up was, to say the least, disheartening. Getting to hear this band mutate from a kind of chicken-fried Sha Na Na that did Stax covers on MTV into a honkytonk Yardbirds would've probably struck William Faulkner as piss-poor wages for Southern exile, but it suited me just fine. The Black Crowes have been getting the kind of reviews this tour you'd expect to greet the Risen Obama, with David Fricke at Rolling Stone invoking ghosts of 1968 Grateful Dead out of their September turn at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium. Crowology, the album the band's nominally supporting, is a two-disc acoustic refry of their old stuff and a seemingly final statement out of an act that swiped the keys to classic rock and drove off in it like a stolen cop car.

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Calibree Photography
The ballyhoo that this five-night stand might well be the authentic last bow from an indisputably great, even legendary, band was enough to sell Sunday night out, with the lobby of the Fillmore crammed with a nice cross-section of West Coast rock elite: late teenagers in careful early-Nineties mufti, swagbellied industry suits up from L.A., and even that special kind of road-hog fan that manages to get thrown out of every venue on tour. Tonight, this eight-person version of the band unrolled two long sets worth of the accomplished, snaky raunch that has long since lugged them into whatever provisional pantheon exists in modern rock.

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Calibree Photography
There was something triumphantly final about the ferocious way the band went at both long sets, with lithe, bearded frontman Chris Robinson turning in a magnificently seamed version of his oldtime winsome yawlp. On "She Talks to Angels," he sang with the honest joy of a man who knows at least one all-time classic rock song won't get gummed to death in Vegas. Brother Rich Robinson contributed some soaring Allmanesque guitar runs as the show took on a momentum of its own that rolled right over the intermission without feeling the bump. The center of the crowd sweated handsomely in individualized ecstasies, while staff expertly frogwalked miscreants to Geary Street and a pair of fanboy San Francisco cops lounged in the lobby. 

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Calibree Photography
By the cover of Pink Floyd's "Fearless," it was beginning to look like one of those fabled occasions, like Terry Riley's set at All Tomorrow's Parties or the time at Coachella they pulled the plug on The Cure. The din was like honey in the ears, the floor sticky with spilled booze, and everywhere you looked there were people in the throes of some extreme reaction or other. At the end of the last encore, the Crowes were looking confident that, come Saturday night, they'd have the place blown apart brick by brick. 

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Calibree Photography
Random notebook dump: "[Chris] sang "Talks with Angels" with weary eloquence, like he was shortly to be relieved of the burden of singing it for good."

Setlist:
Soul Singing
Hotel Illness
Meet Me In The Morning
Thorn In My Pride
My Heart's Killing Me
Girl From A Pawnshop
What Is Home
Polly
She Talks To Angels
My Morning Song
And the Band Played On
Peace Anyway
How Much For Your Wings
Bring On Bring On
Fearless
Wiser Time
Jealous Again
Been A Long Time (Waiting On Love)
Poor Elijah / Robert Johnson
Don't Know Why
Coming Home

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Calibree Photography
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Calibree Photography
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