The first time I heard the Black Crowes of course it was their version of Hard To Handle. I had no idea it was a cover song and at the time if someone had told me that it was actually written and recorded by Otis Redding the young, musically illiterate me probably would have asked “Otis who?”
Then came a couple of other hits – Twice As Hard and She Talks To Angels both come to mind – and then the band dropped off the end of the earth as far as I (and FM radio) was concerned.
When I started listening to The Grateful Dead and other such music I became aware of the Black Crowes again, as they had their feet firmly in the door of that scene. To be honest, I’ve never been able to understand why that is though I suspect it’s mostly due to Chris Robinson’s unabashed love for The Dead, and perhaps the fact that they had some success of their own with Hard To Handle long before anyone had ever heard of The Black Crowes. Either way, based on the jamband connection (and the fact that I knew a few of their hits) when the Robinson brothers et al booked themselves an Ottawa date I jumped.
The band played to a pretty good crowd at the Ottawa Congress Centre on May 15th, 2006. Matt Mays opened the show, though his set is lost to my memory. What I remember from the rest of the evening is a concert short on highlights or instrumental acrobatics. Rather, it was a hard-grinding, sweaty set of fairly standard rock that went in one of my ears and out the other. I walked out with no more love for The Black Crowes than when I walked in, and to this day I remain mostly mystified as to why they are considered part the ‘jam’ scene.
I have since seen Chris Robinson perform with Phil Lesh and, well, I just don’t get it. But if you don’t go you won’t know.