Chris Robinson delivers chills at The Chapel

Chris RobinsonBy Benjamin Wallen //

Chris Robinson with Mapache //
The Chapel – San Francisco
June 21st, 2017 //

It was about eight years ago when a girl messaged me on an online dating website.

“Hey, I don’t think we’d be a good match, but I got an extra ticket to the Chris Robinson Brotherhood show in Oakland,” she wrote. “I see you like the same kind of music. Do you want to go with me?”

“Why not?” I thought. I had no idea who Chris Robinson was, and I said so.

“Never heard of him, but why not?” I replied. She informed me that he was a member of The Black Crowes.

I thought to myself, “Wait, a country band?” So, I did a quick Google search.

I had always thought that Chris Robinson Brotherhood were a country band, but boy, was I wrong. Instead, I came to find that they were an amazing rock band and quickly fell in love with their music. I wrote back to the girl, “Hell yeah! Let’s do this!”

Chris Robinson

That night, I fell in love even more with Chris Robinson as he blazed through a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”. It was one of the most memorable nights. Not only was it an amazing show, but I also met a new friend and fell in love with a whole new band.

Well, years have past and I was able to see Chris Robinson Brotherhood on a couple of other occasions, including at High Sierra Music Festival and again at The Chapel last Wednesday for a solo acoustic performance — something that I imagined would be incredible and absolutely proved to be.

Robinson’s voice gives me chills and seeing him at a venue as intimate as The Chapel was truly amazing. You always worry about solo acoustic shows being hard for the audience to keep its attention at or that it doesn’t feel quite as powerful as when a band performs live.

Well, I can say that Robinson is even better as a solo acoustic act. The sound at the first of his two SF shows was impeccable, and the vibe was all smiles. Even in a near-silent room, you could feel it.

From start to finish, it was an amazing night. Mapache, an acoustic duo from Los Angeles, kicked things off with great songs that were led by wonderful harmonies. I’ve since added them to my “must-see again” list, but in the end, the wonder that is Chris Robinson stole the show. While the crowd politely kept it down, the music took to the air and enchanted us all. The highlight for me was when he played “Sunday Sound”, a song by Chris Robinson & The New Earth Mud, midway through the set.

If you get a chance to catch Robinson perform solo, do it. You will not be disappointed. Just keep it down and get as close as you can. You won’t regret riding the rail for this one.

Setlist:
Hotel Illness (The Black Crowes song)
Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye (The Black Crowes song)
Someday Past the Sunset (Chris Robinson Brotherhood song)
Fables (Chris Robinson & The New Earth Mud song)
Silver Car (Chris Robinson & The New Earth Mud song)
Shadow Cosmos (Chris Robinson Brotherhood song)
Blonde Light of Morning (Chris Robinson Brotherhood song)
Hark, The Herald Hermit Speaks (Chris Robinson Brotherhood song)
Glow (Chris Robinson Brotherhood song)
Train Robbers (Chris Robinson & The New Earth Mud song)
Sunday Sound (Chris Robinson & The New Earth Mud song)
Good Friday (The Black Crowes song)
Blue Star Woman (Chris Robinson Brotherhood song)
If You Had a Heart to Break (Chris Robinson Brotherhood song)
Beware, Oh Take Care (Chris Robinson Brotherhood song)
California Hymn (Chris Robinson Brotherhood song)
Jealous Again (The Black Crowes song)
Appaloosa (The Black Crowes song)

Encore:
High Head Blues (The Black Crowes song)
Oh, The Rain (Blind Willie Johnson cover)

Chris Robinson Brotherhood put the pedal to the metal at LA’s newest home for jam bands

Chris Robinson BrotherhoodBy Josh Herwitt //

Chris Robinson Brotherhood //
The Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles
December 17th, 2016 //

Back when MTV was in its heyday, I remember seeing the music video for The Black Crowes’ “Hard to Handle” routinely flash across my television screen. It was my first memory of the now-defunct Southern blues-rock band fronted by Chris Robinson, whose soulful croon for nearly 25 years helped the Crowes sell more than 30 million albums.

But despite all of their success together, Robinson and his younger brother Rich often didn’t see eye to eye. That’s why after two separate hiatuses, The Black Crowes made it official late last year, announcing that they were done once and for all.

For Robinson, the breakup signaled an opportunity for him to focus primarily on his other project, the eponymous Chris Robinson Brotherhood that formed several years earlier and leans more heavily toward the West Coast jam scene that the Grateful Dead pioneered than the feel-good rock ‘n’ roll that The Black Crowes were well-known for fostering in the 90’s.

At this point, CRB are a well-oiled machine. With five LPs — including two this year in Any Way You Love, We Know How You Feel and If You Lived Here, You Would Be Home By Now — under its belt, the five-piece has established itself as one of the hardest-working bands out there, both in the studio and on the road.

The Chris Robinson Brotherhood

With the release of If You Lived Here, You Would Be Home By Now in early November, CRB had already been up and down the West Coast for a couple of weeks by the time they arrived in the city where the group was formed. It was a unusually cold, winter night in LA last Saturday, as Robinson (lead vocals, guitar) and his fellow bandmates — Neal Casal (guitar, vocals), Adam MacDougall (keyboards, vocals), Tony Leone (drums) and newest addition Jeff Hill (bass) — walked onstage at The Fonda Theatre for the very first time.

After all, since CRB formed in 2011, the El Rey Theatre has served as their LA home, like it has for many jam-related acts. But over the past year, The Fonda has reasserted itself as the venue for jam bands. Both Lotus and Galactic have made the move, with each scheduled to perform at the 1,200-person venue that’s changed its name a handful of times in February.

The Fonda, on this night, appeared to serve CRB well, well enough to mix in their newest material like “Roan County Banjo” and “New Cannonball Rag” off If You Lived Here, You Would Be Home By Now with covers of The Byrds’ “Lazy Days” and Robinson’s past solo project New Earth Mud. There were cuts from Any Way You Love, We Know How You Feel, particularly during the band’s second set as CRB plowed through “Ain’t It Hard but Fair”, “Leave My Guitar Alone” and “Forever as the Moon” before wrapping up with “Narcissus Soaking Wet”, which opens the eight-track record that reached as high as No. 118 on the Billboard 200.

CRB are among a rare breed of bands. With Robinson’s roots in Georgia despite moving to California more than 20 years ago, there’s still a Southern quality to his music. His unique voice puts you at ease, and although guitar is still fairly new to him, you wouldn’t know it from the way his playing jives so seamlessly with Casal’s. Yet, as a Marin County resident where friends Phil Lesh and Bob Weir also live, you can see where Robinson’s allegiances have started to lie. Intertwining elements of psychedelic rock, blues and jam, CRB are an amalgamation of Robinson’s many influences. Maybe no better example of that was their cover of swamp rocker Tony Joe White’s “Saturday Night in Oak Grove, Louisiana”, which showed up as “Saturday Night in L.A.” on the setlist. So, as Robinson and company closed with their own rendition of The Velvet Underground’s “Rock & Roll” that had fans singing along to the words Lou Reed once wrote back in 1970, it felt like a good way to celebrate a Saturday night in LA.


Set 1: Lazy Days (The Byrds cover), Roan County Banjo, Badlands Here We Come, Clear Blue Sky & The Good Doctor, Sunday Sound (Chris Robinson & New Earth Mud cover), Meanwhile in the Gods…, California Hymn, Saturday Night in L.A. (officially titled “Saturday Night in Oak Grove, Louisiana”) (Tony Joe White cover)

Set 2: Rosalee, New Cannonball Rag, Ain’t It Hard but Fair, Reflections on a Broken Mirror, Leave My Guitar Alone, Forever as the Moon, I Ain’t Hiding (The Black Crowes cover), Narcissus Soaking Wet > Rosalee reprise

Encore: Rock & Roll (The Velvet Underground cover)