In early March 2020, Black Crowes co-founders Chris and Rich Robinson played at the 400-person Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
as part of their nine-city Brothers of a Feather acoustic tour, a teaser before another planned jaunt celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of Shake Your Money Maker
That night, fans felt like they were hanging out with the brothers, who in 2015 announced what was supposed to be the end of the Black Crowes
after disagreements emerged over who actually owned the band.
At Ophelia's, they played songs from their three-decade catalogue. Chris told the stories behind many of the tracks and paid homage to the band’s late keyboardist, Ed Harsch. The concert was also a bit of insight into the brothers’ yin-and-yang dynamic: Chris was boisterous, while Rich avoided saying anything for most of the night.
“I don’t need to talk,” Rich said near the end of the Ophelia’s set. “Chris is great at it.”
“By the way, I had to get great at it because you never fucking say anything,” Chris said.
“He talks for two,” Rich said.
“It’s an argument to be made that I talk for sixteen people,” Chris said. “At least a baker’s dozen.”
Fast-forward a year and a half later. The Black Crowes, whose Shake Your Money Maker
tour had been postponed by pandemic shutdowns, returned to Colorado to play two nights at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. To celebrate three decades, the band played the entirety of the album, front to back. And their dynamic hadn't changed, even as they played for 9,500 people.
The stage was set up like a juke joint, with a bar, a bartender, a Wurlitzer jukebox, and two structures with balconies that fit about ten people.
Chris sat behind a Black Crowes umbrella as the band took the stage. Rich fired up the first few chords in open-G tuning of “Twice as Hard,” the opening track to Money Maker
. The rest of the band kicked in, and a jolt of energy blasted from the stage as Chris came out from behind the umbrella and began dancing in his white suit and hat and silver shoes. Meanwhile, Rich, standing on stage left with a blank expression, almost looked bored, occasionally watching his brother prance.
The Black Crowes in action.
Along with the Robinson brothers, this incarnation of the band included longtime bassist Sven Pipien, guitarist Isaiah Mitchell, keyboardist Joel Robinow, drummer Brian Griffin and backing vocalists MacKenzie Adams and Leslie Grant, wearing sparkling silver dresses and standing on a riser next to the drum kit.
While the band injected fire and energy into the first half of show, running through hits from Shake Your Money Maker
like “Jealous Again” and Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle,” there wasn’t a lot of chitchat between songs like there was at the Ophelia’s gig. The brothers played full-throttle through the album, one song running into the next. No matter how vigorous a song might have been, Rich’s blank expression didn’t change much. Chris was the enthralling focal point the whole show, his voice sounding fantastic for much of the night, particularly on “She Talks to Angels,” which Rich started on acoustic guitar.
The hits help sell copies of Shake Your Money Maker
, but the album’s deeper cuts, like “Could Have Been So Blind” and “Thick N’ Thin,” “Struttin’ Blues,” (which Chris said he was wearing his silver shows for) and “Stare It Cold,” proved to be equally compelling in the live setting.
The Black Crowes at Red Rocks.
The second half of the set was heavy on cuts from the band’s 1992 sophomore album, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion
, revving up potent takes on “Sting Me” and “Remedy” and digging into a deep groove on “My Morning Song.”
The highlight of the night was “Thorn in My Pride,” which started off with a lilt while a cool breeze blew through the amphitheater. The buildup was killer, with Mitchell laying down some tasty solos until a break. Then Chris came in on harmonica, soloing as the band ramped up the intensity behind him.
The band closed out the night with a cover of “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do,” which Chris said Jimmy Page (who toured with the Black Crowes in 2000) showed the guys how to play.
While the band's Ophelia’s and Red Rocks sets couldn't have been more different, the brothers managed to share the stage and keep up with both sizes of crowds, still happily playing together.