Following the acrimonious dissolution of the Black Crowes in 2015 it seemed all but a certainty that fans would forever be resigned to enjoying the band’s music via only blurred memories and or iTunes. Seemingly out of nowhere, 2017 served as the launching point for what has now become a full on rebirth of the Black Crowes, albeit in rather unthorodoxed and unexpected forms.
The Magpie Salute, featuring former Black Crowes members Rich Robinson, Marc Ford and Sven Pipien, were the first outfit to dip their toes back into the Crowe’s universe. Based on comments Black Crowes front man Chris Robinson made regarding the band reuniting, as well as the the Magpie Salute specifically, it sure seemed that the elder of the Robinson brothers was not all that interested in bringing the Black Crowes back to life in any iteration.
However, late in 2017 rumors began to surface that Robinson was piecing together a Black Crowes touring outfit of his own, that would also include former band members. Whispers of a Robinson fronted Black Crowes project were confirmed as being true this past January when the inaugural tour of As The Crow Flies was official announced. Former Black Crowes players Audley Freed, bassist Andy Hess and keyboardist Adam MacDougall were quickly brought in the As the Crow Flies fold. Robinson also tapped current Chris Robinson Brotherhood drummer Tony Leone, as well as rising guitar phenom Marcus King, to round out the As the Crowes lineup.
This past Tuesday April 17th, As the Crow Flies took off for their initial flight within the confines of the renowned Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York. A combination of nervous energy and excitement permeated throughout the entirety of the sold out Capitol Theatre audience prior to the band taking to the venue’s lighted stage.
Perhaps the biggest question mark regarding the As the Crow line up was the inclusion of southern fried guitar hero Marcus King. The concerns were likely tied to the fact that many of the Black Crowes die hard fans simply weren’t all that familiar with King himself or his music. King fronts and plays lead guitar for Greenville, South Carolina based juggernaut The Marcus King Band. The Marcus King Band itself is rooted in improvisation, pscyhedelia and southern inspired licks and harmonies. Subsequently King’s own musical DNA aligns quite well with the Black Crowes sonic palette, making it quite apparent as to why Robinson was eager to bring King into the As the Crow Flies fold.
Fans did not have to wait long to see if King was capable of brining the type of guitar based bombast that were a trademarks of past Crowes guitarists such as Marc Ford and Luther Dickinson. Early on the in set King unleashed an electrifying solo to close out “By Your Side” that actually turned out to be the first “wow” moment of the evening.
Not to be out done, former full time Black Crowes guitarist Audley Freed more than proved to the Capitol Theatre faithful there were ample reasons as to why Robinson brought him along to be a part of the As the Crow Flies tour. Any detractors regarding that particularly sentiment surely must have been swayed following Freed’s first foray into the guitar spotlight on the evening with the combustible solo he served up to wind down a resplendent take on “Non Fiction.”
Robinson himself was in good spirits throughout the night’s performance. The front man treated the audience to ample doses of smiles, effulgent vocals and of course some of his renowned dance moves. Robinson and the band as a whole seemed to shine and find their groove more as the performance moved into the second half of the set. Highlights included blistering takes on “Thorn in My Pride and “My Morning Song” as well as main set closer “Hard to Handle,” which included an extended and majestic jam of Deep Purple’s “Hush.”
Was everything perfect on the first night of the As the Crow Flies tour? The answer to that question is probably “no” but with a strong asterisk next to it. The quintet only live rehearsed together for a few days in Brooklyn, NY prior to the tour kicking off. More importantly bands like the Black Crowes were in large part, driven to greater heights by the technical acumen that existed within the band, as well as with their intrinsic familiarity with another musically.
Rest assured As the Crow Flies has the first of the two aforementioned traits in spades. As the tour progress and these musicians become more familiar with another both on and off the stage, thousands of fans are going to be lining up to share the ride with Robinson and his flock of fellow As the Crow Flies brethren.
Setlist: Remedy, Sting Me, Twice as Hard, By Your Side, Non Fiction, Good Frida, Almost Cut My Hair, Wiser Time, She Talks to Angels, Thorn in My Pride, My Morning Song, Jealous Again, Hard to Handle > Hush