It was hard rock heaven at the State Theatre on Tuesday night. Five years to the day since their last visit to Portland, The Black Crowes touched down for the first concert in a two-night stand.
The Georgia-based Crowes have developed a devoted following over the years. Many of the true believers who came out on Tuesday were already holding tickets to return the following night. A few more may want to, if they can get their hearing back.
The band’s mixture of Southern blues/rock with soul, gospel and the occasional countrified lament still packs a lot of energy to go with the sometimes thunderous volume. Most in attendance were happily hootin’ and hollerin’ from the start.
Important personnel changes to the band for this tour include guitarist Luther Dickinson being replaced by Jackie Greene and the absence of female backup singers. The latter change led to fewer gospel-feeling, call and response vocal moments.
The center of the group remains intact, though, with brothers Chris and Rich Robinson looking and sounding good.
Chris’ unmistakably soulful voice cut through the band’s heavy sound on such favorites as “Good Morning Captain” and “Remedy.” The slender front man also got to show a softer spiritual side on “She Talks to Angels,” with Greene, who proved his mettle throughout the show, adding a bit of mandolin.
Rich duetted with brother Chris on “Wiser Time,” which also featured Adam MacDougal working an impressive solo across three different keyboards. Rich traded monstrous guitar leads with Greene on a Grateful Dead-style instrumental excursion that established incredible momentum and the whole band caught fire on a huge crescendo topping off “Oh, Josephine.”
The hand drumming of Steve Gorman on “Whoa Mule” added variety as did the occasional harmonica work from Chris Robinson.
A cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Torn and Frayed” was also a treat.
“Jealous Again” made for a fine finish (before encores) to an evening of solid rocking and rolling from what one fan was heard to call simply, “a fun group.”
Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.