Santa Barbara has been a ripe piece of real estate in the mercurial saga of the Black Crowes, whose delayed reunion tour stops at the Santa Barbara Bowl on July 24. In romanticized relationship terminology that pop culture loves to wallow in, the brother-based and brother-embattled band’s most recent breakup played out in a “final” tour landing them at the Arlington Theater in December of 2010. It was a riff-slinging, rip-snorting night of the sort this blues-rock powered American classic can deliver, which also turned out to be a party on the brink of a long hiatus.
Only a month later, the Crowes’ “demise” was official, but Chris Robinson returned to our idyllic outpost of a town to court and honeymoon with his new project, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood (minus his actual brother Rich). In a novel approach to birthing a band, Chris put on a weekly series of shows at SOhO, workshopping his band into shape for fans in the club. Once in fighting form, they became repeat visitors to the Lobero Theater.
CRB has gone on to establish a personality and following its own, but the pull of the Crowes — and no doubt the lure of lucre and bright lights – brought the brothers back to the bargaining table. After a forced pandemic pause, the Crowes hit the road again last year, in a tour very much rooted in the past, and specifically the 30th anniversary of the band’s best-known album, Shake Your Money Maker.
At the Bowl, along with other items in the setlist, we’ll hear the album in its entirety. We’ll step back in time to a phenom-launching album from 1990, which itself proudly avoided then-current trends and retooled old historic influences, from soul/blues masters (as in their version of Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle”) and Brit blues/pub rock turf of the Stones, Led Zeppelin, Faces and Humble Pie, and Southern Rock musical lingo.
In an interview, Chris alluded to the record company woes and other external tension when the band went nationwide. “When the Black Crowes happened in 1990,” he said, “that was definitely not under our control.” He found a more desirable, organic success level with CRB, a necessary side trip, and presumably has come to peace with the old moneymaker band.
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“I started to write songs because I needed the traction,” he says. “I was a weirdo kid, living in the suburbs in Georgia, reading E.E. Cummings and listening to Muddy Waters. Everybody else was listening to Loverboy and watching John Hughes movies or whatever. That’s cool, too — not the Loverboy part.
“What that means is that the idea of creating and making something was a way to keep going and not let the darkness wash in, or the apathy of the suburbs. That was hard to take. I think that’s where my hardcore, stubborn passion about how I feel things could be comes from.”
In the final rub, Chris says that, “Sagittarian lead singers, in terms of their reputations in rock bands, need more ego boost. I need to make things. I didn’t get into this to be famous. I got into this to write songs and make music. All that other stuff happens if you’re lucky and you strike a chord. It’s a beautiful, unique situation.”