Wandering into the Brooklyn Bowl on a Wednesday night around 8 and finding people already standing in the front row waiting for the bands is pretty weird. Then again, it is Bowlive 6, and tonight was night five, the second in a row featuring the Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson.
What is Bowlive? It’s a string of shows held at Brooklyn Bowl where the jazzy funk trio Soulive acts as house band and brings out different guests every night, and specializes in funkifying dance floors into frenzies with recognizable classics. They look and feel like a funkier Medeski, Martin, and Wood, with Eric Krasno (guitar), Alan Evans (drums) and Neal Evans (Hammond B3 Organ, bass keys, clavinet).
The first part of the set was just the three of them playing instrumentally for about a half an hour. For this part they ran through Aladdin from their 2003 Self-Titled album, which went nicely into a Beatles double whammy “Eleanor Rigby” / “She’s So Heavy” which got the crowd into it. For their 2005 song “Break Out” they brought out a whole slew of guests – Adam Deitch (John Scofield, Lettuce) on drums and “The Shady Horns” adding trumpet and saxophone. Soon enough, out came Chris Robinson.
Chris Robinson has aged since the height of his fame, sporting a beard and laid back humbled veteran status. However, his voice remained practically unchanged since the 90s, and when he got his guitar on, the band launched into The Black Crowe’s hit “Remedy” originally off of The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion from 1992. It was exactly the kind of song that I would want to hear with this pairing start with.
The group ran through some obscure covers, first with Jimmy Hughes 1964’s “Steal Away,” followed by Delta Blues classic “Ragged and Dirty,” where Deitch took over for drums and laid down the backbeat, Robinson broke for a harp solo, and Krasno’s guitar screamed on an extended jam. This was followed by an appropriately funky reading of Traffic’s “Who Knows What Tomorrow Will Bring.” The pool of influences was firmly placed in 60s and 70s R&B standards, and the band chose appropriate songs to stretch out and play with.
Robinson wasn’t the only legendary guest in the building, however, as George Porter Jr., bassist for the legendary funk band The Meters came out and sang / played bass for the Curtis Mayfield song “Check Out Your Mind.” George Porter Jr. is one of my all time favorites on bass, and having him come out was a real treat. His soulful growl and iconic bass groove fit perfectly in the mix, transitioning into set closer and Grateful Dead classic “Brown Eyed Women.”
It was interesting to hear Robinson tackle the Dead, and it really worked well as a closer. His voice was not comparable with Jerry’s (obviously), but stylistically, he made it work. The only issue was that poor George Porter Jr. wasn’t familiar with the song. Otherwise, it was a perfect set closer, and set up the grand finale encore, the Otis Redding turned Black Crowes 90s smash hit “Hard to Handle” which brought everyone back on stage, only to tear it down.
It was an expected finale given the participants, but also the best possible finale as it had everyone in the crowd going bazonkers. This is the first time that I’ve seen Chris Robinson, and it was a perfect mix of classics to appeal to casual fans, and a lot of gems for the setlist geeks.
02. Eleanor Rigby ->
03. I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
04. Up & Out @
05. The Dump @*
06. Break Out @*# ->
07. Relax @&*#
08. Remedy *#^ – BLACK CROWES
09. Steal Away *#^ – DUPREE
10. Ragged & Dirty @*#^ [Al on Guitar]
11. Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring ^
12. Check Out Your Mind ^%->
13. Brown Eyed Women ^%
14. Hard To Handle @*#^% [Al on Guitar]
* w/ The Shady Horns – Ryan Zoidis – Saxophones and Eric Bloom – Trumpet
@ w/ Adam Deitch – Drums
# w/ Cochemea Gastelum – Saxophones / Flute
^ w/ Chris Robinson – Guitar / Vox
% w/ George Porter Jr. – Bass / Vox
Article by: Steven Klett
Photos: Shayne Hanley