Chris Robinson Brotherhood take over The Paramount Huntington, NY 2-19-15

chris robinson slide - Chris Robinson Brotherhood take over The Paramount Huntington, NY 2-19-15

Chris Robinson Brotherhood take over The Paramount Huntington, NY 2-19-15

Rising from the ashes of The Black Crowes, Chris Robinson Brotherhood(affectionately regarded to as CRB by their fans) are currently touring in support of their 2014 album Phosphorescent Harvest.  The band consists of vocalist/guitarist Robinson, guitarist Neal Casal (of Ryan Adam’s band, The Cardinals), keyboardist Adam MacDougall (The Black Crowes), bassist Mark Dutton, and new drummer Tony Leone. The album’s title is the perfect summation of their fiery mix of Blues, Soul, Psychedelic Rock, and straight up Rock-n-Roll. Marking their third full-length offering on Silver Arrow records, the album has been universally celebrated by fans and critics alike. Rolling Stone called the work, “At once quirky, trippy, soulful, and downright magnetic.”  Proud of the band’s effort, Robinson himself stated, “We’ve created a piece of Rock-n-Roll here. People can look to us and rest assured (that) the genre is alive and well.”

Initially debuting the project in 2011, Chris Robinson Brotherhood took California by storm by performing fifty shows in a nine week stretch, despite having yet to release an album. It was not until 2012 that the band put their expertly blended styles on record with the release of two studio albums, one in June titled Big Moon Ritual, and another in September, titled The Magic Door.  Now, after spending the past three years relentlessly touring, Chris Robinson Brotherhood are back on the road in 2015. No strangers to the Long Island music scene, the band has already played 89 North in August of 2014 and The Suffolk Theater in November of 2014. This time they brought their mixed bag of intelligent, deep, and downright fun brand of music to The Paramount in Huntington on Thursday, February 19, 2015.

Without an opening act, the band started off the show with a nod to Blues legend Jimmy Reed by covering the track, “Bright Lights, Big City.” A great warm-up for the show, they sauntered through the laid back riffs with a deft mix of Classic guitars sprinkled with perfectly timed fills on the piano, while Leone and Dutton kept the rhythm firm. New song “Jump The Turnstiles” kept the mood mellow as the band channeled early ’70s Grateful Dead; weaving sinewy guitar licks, a simple, steady beat, and lush harmonies between Casal and Robinson – all over a jazzy piano riff from McDougal. The loose jamming continued with “Tornado” as fans dug down deep losing themselves in the melodies dancing through the air.

Picking up the pace a bit was “Meanwhile In The Gods,” a song with a psychadelic keyboard riff, Chicago Blues style guitars, a bouncy melody, and sunny, care-free crooning from Robinson. Blending Philly soul and Motown crunch, this tune got the crowd moving with a house party vibe. Reaching back to 2012’s Big Moon Ritual, The Chris Robinson Brotherhood stretched out on the ambitious “Tulsa Yesterday.” Clocking in at over twelve minutes, the song showcased the musicians propensity for crazed, psychedelic freak outs. Casal was all over the place on guitar, but always managed to bring it back home, albeit briefly, before venturing out into space again as he dropped solo after solo over Robinson’s steady rhythm guitar work.

Moving right along Blues great Slim Harpo was paid tribute with a greasy, jazz-inflected rendition of “The Music’s Hot.” While Harpo’s version winds up after a little over two minutes, The Chris Robinson Brotherhood extended it to over seven minutes with an endless interplay between Robinson and Casal as well as a funk-laden organ solo from McDougal. Another Harpo tune titled “Got Love if You Want it” closed out the first half of the performance with deft slide work by Casal as Robinson echoed the rough and tumble howling of the southern Blues master. Swiftly shifting gears, a speed freak outro took everyone by surprise, while the band displayed textures of late ’60s/early ’70s boogie Rock/Blues, bringing to mind Humble Pie, The Faces, and The Allman Brothers Band, among others.

After a twenty minute break, Robinson and his band took the stage for a second set with a colorful rainbow of styles. Leon Russel’s “Stranger In A Strange Land” led things off with a smooth, casual run, featuring McDougal and Casal dueling toward the climax on keys and guitar to bring the Honky Tonk sound to the fore. “Little Lizzie Mae,” a Black Crowes song that never made it onto an album but was recorded on The Chris Robinson Brotherhood’s 2012 release, The Magic Door, had the group sounding like The Band, with a punchy piano riff and boisterous harmonies. It was an upbeat groove that would have fit right in on The Band’s 1968 album Music From Big Pink or their 1969 self-titled masterpiece. Continuing the vibrant second set Chris Robinon Brotherhood’s latest concoction “Roane County Banjo,”  slated for a spot on their next release, brought a Country inflected and simply melodious jaunt carried by Casal’s banjo-like guitar. Thereafter, “Vibration & Light Suite,” lived up to its name as the band went absolutely haywire for a fifteen minute rousing, and surreal Blues jam. Robinson and Casal took turns soloing throughout as they evoked the untamed, raw sound of the psychedelic underground. Not to be overshadowed, McDougal joined in with a slew of wild effects and runs on clavinet, perfectly complementing the rough fuzz of the guitars.

Drawing a roar from the crowd, Otis Redding cover “Hard to Handle” (and probably the Black Crowes’ most popular song,) followed next. The band took this opportunity to have some fun with a track – slowing it down considerably from the studio version and adding a lot more guitars into the fray, while Robinson treated the lyrics and the vocals as an afterthought to the explosive R&B that they were laying down. Closing out the second set was “Sunday Sound” from Chris Robinson’s 2002 solo release, New Earth Mud. The live performance of the song provided a wonderfully paced mid-tempo Rock song and a perfect confluence of all that the band appears to hold dear; harmonies, peace-loving hippieness, jingle-jangle guitars, Blues guitars, Country-tinged vocals, steady rhythms, and Honky Tonk keys.

Following a brief departure from the stage, the band reemerged for a two song encore featuring two covers. The first, “Girl I Love You” which is a stirring, soulful ballad from 1968 that, although released at a time of great political strife, civil unrest, Jimi Hendrix, and Vietnam, sounds like a grown-up version of the best Doo-Wop songs of the ’50s. Continuing with the unexpected, the band closed the show with a rousing rendition of Van Morrison’s 1970 album cut “Call Me Up in Dreamland.” On the surface this may seem like an odd combo, but considering the streams of music that has clearly influenced the band and helped shape their sound, the choices actually made perfect sense.

The Chris Robinson Brotherhood wore their hearts on their sleeves all night as they delved into a myriad of styles and sounds. Rock fans looking for a night of diverse music from well-versed musicians steeped in tradition, yet with their own unique sound, then it does not get much better than The Chris Robinson Brotherhood live on stage. While their North American run ends in March, do not worry: the boys will be back in May for more jam sessions.

Photo credit: Charles Eames Photography

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Gerard Smith
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