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Concert Reviews:
Black Crowes And Friends Bring "Freak Power" To DTE

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Thursday, July 27, 2006

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Of the Oakland Press

INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- The rain moved out before Wednesday night's (July 26th) concert began at the DTE Energy Music Theatre. But if it hadn't, it certainly would have been blasted out of the vicinity by the high-octane rock provided by the three groups on the bill -- the Black Crowes, Robert Randolph & the Family Band and Drive-By Truckers.

With plenty of twang, blues and gritty soul, it was a night of what the Crowes would call Southern-style musical harmony -- even if Randolph hails from New Jersey. Lengthy jams were an essential ingredient for all three bands' sets, leaving the 7,500 fans in a state of feel-good bliss commonly associated with Grateful Dead or Allman Brothers Band concerts.

For many, Randolph was the evening's revelation. Following Drive-By Truckers' short set of cinematic Southern rock, the Grammy-nominated sacred steel player -- who honed his style in the Pentecostal Church of God -- played an hour of loose, funky improvisations, including a rendition of "Jesus is Just Alright" that's targeted for his upcoming sophomore album, "Color Blind," and featured Truckers guitarists Mike Cooley and Jason Isbell.

Randolph also welcomed one of his mentors, Detroit sacred steel legend Calvin Cooke, for two songs and finished with a blazing take on Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)."

The Black Crowes, meanwhile, offered nearly two hours of what they do best -- hooky melodies blended with ambitious jams that rocked far more than they noodled thanks to intricate guitar soloing by Rich Robinson and Marc Ford, accented by piano and organ spotlights for Detroiter Eddie Harsch.

It wasn't necessarily a set for the casual fan, as only a faithful version of "Remedy" and an extended "Hard to Handle" came from the "hit" side of the group's catalog. But there were plenty of treats Crowes aficionados -- who were certainly in the majority on Wednesday -- whether it was an epic "My Morning Song" (which featured Steve Gorman's drum solo), deep album tracks such as "Hi-Head Blues," "Sister Luck" and "Welcome to the Good Times," or covers of the Who's "The Seeker" (sung by Rich Robinson), Robert Johnson's "Steady Rollin' Man" (sung by Ford) and the Rolling Stones' "Let it Bleed," one of several songs on which frontman Chris Robinson also played guitar.

The group also previewed its next release, a rarities collection called "The Lost Crowes," with the bluesy track "Dirty Hair Halo."

Chris Robinson dubbed the night "the reality transferal renewal project" -- whatever that might mean. But when he assured the crowd that "the Black Crowes are fully on freak power," there was no question that everyone perfectly understood.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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