Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: The Black Crowes, Freak ‘N’ Roll . . Into The Fog

Rip-roaring rock ‘n roll.  In 2005 The Black Crowes played a five night gig at The Fillmore in San Francisco.  This appears to be a document of the one night they hooked up with the four-man Left Coast Horns (who apparently had only that afternoon to work out arrangements and rehearse with the band).  Did they get it together?  Fuckin’ A!  You have to love a band that walks out on stage and opens up by kicking every ass in the house with a burner like “(Only) Half Way to Everywhere”.  And for the most part it just gets better from there.  This is rock and roll the way it should be played live: No silly props or elaborate stage sets designed to mask the fact that the band is ordinary at best, no dance routines, no costume changes, no bullshit.  Just a band that is not afraid to let the show live or die on how well they play.  The core band is Chris Robinson (vocals, harmonica), Rich Robinson (guitar, vocals), Marc Ford (guitar, vocals), Ed Hawrysch (keyboards), Sven Pipien (bass, vocals, and Steve Gorman (drums).  They’re supplmented by Mona Lisa Young and Charity White on backing vocals and the aforementioned Left Coast Horns (David Ellis, tenor sax; Gavin Distasi, trumpet; Joshi Marshall, alto sax, and Marty Wehner, trombone).  As an ensemble they are tight and all right.

The concert lags a bit in the middle after Rich Robinson and Ford play an effective acoustic duet on “Sunday Buttermilk Waltz”.  The group than recombines a few at a time through the next 5 numbers until the whole group is reassembled and playing electric instruments.  Sounds like a cool idea but compared to the raw energy of what comes both before and after, it’s a low point that lasts too long.  Didn’t slow the band down, though.  “Hard to Handle” has flames coming off the instruments and the following number “Let Me Share the Ride” is incandescent.  The horn section takes their solos on  “. . Share the Ride” and the whole band ignites and tears the roof off.  By the way, is there any better job in music than being one of the guys in these horn sections?  They get to play these high-energy rock gigs, it’s always a big deal, they get almost no time to rehearse so the edge of not fucking it up is keen, the music is usually simpler than the jazz most of these guys play most of the time but it has much more energy and power, and they don’t have to endure the drama that can make being in a rock band such a pain in the ass.  What a blast.  Probably why the horn section guys always look like they’re having a good time.

There is a DVD available of the same gig that has the same tracks presented in the same order.  Sound options include 2-channel stereo, and 5.1 surround Dolby and dts mixes.  I didn’t listen to the 2-channel mix.  Neither of the surround mixes tries to put you in the midst of the band with different instruments coming from different directions.  The dolby mix makes a more full use of the surround arrangement than the dts and is more involving as a result.  (I find the same is almost always true of films as well; the dts mix has bigger booms because it takes the limits off the low end that are typically applied in dolby but the dolby mix is more seamless, complete and detailed and hence much more involving).  Perhaps surprisingly, the sound quality on the 2-channel stereo CD is much better than either of the surround mixes on the DVD.  Fuller, richer, more detailed, cleaner highs, more powerful lows, simply better in every way.  The DVD visuals are a typically filmed concert with annoying and pointless interludes of home-movie quality segments of the band doing fascinating things like being self-consciously filmed walking from here to there.  Who thinks anyone could possibly be interested in this shit?  While you’re being shown this stuff the concert is ongoing so you’re missing the gig.  Bonus materials are more tedious home movies with snippets of music; a complete waste of time.  The CD/DVD choice is a choice between sound and vision.  I’m glad to have seen the DVD once but I’ll play the CD from now on (nice to share the world with Netflix, ain’t it?).  This band is about music, not bogus stage pomp, and the music is better on the CD.

If you like your rock ‘n roll hard, hot, raucus and served straight up, Freak’N’Roll . . . Into the Fog is not to be missed.


02/23/2007 - Posted by | CD reviews, DVD reviews, music

1 Comment »

  1. […] a break” in early 2002.  The band resurfaced with a live CD and DVD combo “Freak N Roll . . . Into the Fog” in 2006.  “Warpaint” is their first studio album in seven […]

    Pingback by Review: The Black Crowes, Warpaint « Tuned In To Music | 03/15/2008 | Reply

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