Chris Robinson of Black Crowes shakes his money maker at the Santa Barbara Bowl. | Credit: Carl Perry

A Brief History of Chris Robinson in Santa Barbara: The dynamic lead singer/songwriter of the Black Crowes pops up in various venues around town. He evolved from the near “retirement” show by his famed band at the Arlington in 2010 to a series of workshop gigs for his new Chris Robinson Brotherhood band at SOhO in 2011, later playing the Lobero Theater with that project. 

On Sunday July 24, The Black Crowes, with Chris reunited with sometimes rivalry-separate brother Rich in the Big House of the Santa Barbara Bowl, steering the band’s post-COVID tour through the 805. Chris and company were sounding as strong or better than ever, and a raucous but focused time was had by all, kicking off with a stop at the kitschy saloon stage set, with a jukebox blasting Elmore James’s “Shake Your Money Maker.

Credit: Carl Perry

This BC tour in particular was an intentionally nostalgia-tripping show, featuring a run through the entirety of the band’s legendary (and hot-selling) 1990 debut album Shake Your Money Maker, fortified by its hits “Jealous Again,” their chart-topping version of Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle” and “Twice as Hard.”

Then again, nostalgia pumps through this band’s veins. Seeing the Crowes in 2022 becomes a retro upon retro exercise, as its crunchy riff-driven rock ’n’ roll style, heavily influenced by the Rolling Stones and Southern Rock models, was already a throwback in 1980. 

Among the songs beyond the Money Maker menu was a Robinson-ian rendition of the Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” and a sweet finale of “Virtue and Vice,” from 1999’s album By Your Side.

The band deserves points for booking the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio (featuring potent beat-making drummer Dan Weiss) as opener, laying out funk and jazz flavors in a venue where jazz feels right at home — despite the sad lack of the j-word here. To my knowledge, the only precedent of an organ trio opening act at the Bowl came when Steely Dan gamely hired Sam Yahel’s trio to do the jazz-lined honors.

After all was expertly sung and played in the band’s 90-ish-minute set, a borrowed adage sprang to mind: it’s only rock ’n’ roll, but we still like it, in small doses.

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