Chris Robinson Brotherhood At Amoeba, Monday July 31st 2017
Former Black Crowes Chris Robinson and Neal Casal – who is best known as a member of Ryan Adam’s backing band the Cardinals – did an acoustic performance at Amoeba on Monday night. The two members of Chris Robinson Brotherhood played tracks of their last album, ‘Barefoot in the Head’, which was recently released via Silver Arrow Records.
Robinson formed the band during a Black Crowes hiatus in 2011, and this new adventure became his life after the definitive and ugly breakup of the band. It’s interesting to see he used brotherhood in the moniker of his new band, when we are aware of his disagreement with his own brother, but let’s forget about family, this album is a collection of new material, which, according to what they played, carries the torch of a strong tradition of well-crafted folk-blues-rock-influenced songs. It may have been just a pure coincidence to see their name just above Jerry Garcia Birthday Party on the marquee of Amoeba, but it was a cool one, since Robinson and his previous band opened for the Grateful Dead back in the 90s, and this is not the only connection that have with Garcia’s band.
‘I can feel the jams coming out of this’ said Casal after a song they played mid set, and effectively two guitars can’t really make it for the layered sound you can hear on the album, but the performance had a real folk intimacy, something that many fans were delighted to experience. The two looked very laid back and happy to be there, ‘This is our first record store deal,’ said Chris Robinson.
‘Blonde Light of Morning’ and ‘If You Had a Heart to Break’ had Crosby Stills and Nash harmonies as well as Robinson’s bright voice, they diffused a sort of hazy nostalgia of California music, while ‘Blue Star Woman’ was a strange one, difficult to follow musically even though it was performed acoustically… it was a song about some event ‘that could taken place in suburban America’ as Robinson put it, a story about a messy bed and a soggy pillow, ‘She tried to blame it on one of her pets/I said do you have a cat she said ‘why no not yet’’, and I am not sure where they were going with that one, which was undoubtedly a risky one to perform.
The next one entitled ‘Glow’ was nevertheless more in the vein of their music folk heroes performed with brightness and fingerpicking guitar solos, very well received by the Amoeba crowd, with a lot of warm clapping. ‘Hark the Herald Hermit Speaks’ brought Robinson into a sort of Dylan mode, singing in a strong voice in our faces over a catchy melody plus, I am guessing, a much more psychedelic ending on the record. If you certainly had to admire the guitar work of ‘High Is Not the Top’ during the extended country-folk jam at the end, the album will certainly mostly please those who are attached to a certain song tradition, more folksy than rocking, may be even more country than you would expect – just listen to this last song on the record. ‘Barefoot in the Head’ is certainly more varied than their acoustic performance did let us know, but it also short of surprises: Actually, it is exactly what you would expect from Robinson and his bandmates.
‘The music that we make, the concerts that we play, it’s this world we’ve created for ourselves and our people’, has explained Robinson in a statement. ‘We want everybody to understand that no matter where you are in your life that you can always be barefoot in your head. There’s always this other place you can go. Is that place real? That’s your decision to make, what you’re going to let be real to you.’
Whatever he meant by that, the two men looked very free and happy to perform, although it was specified by Amoeba employees that they would not sign any Black Crowes albums or related items. There’s always some limit to that freedom he was talking about.
Blonde Light of Morning
Blue Star Woman
Hark the Herald Hermit Speaks
If You Had a Heart to Break
High is not the Top