The Chris Robinson Brotherhood made its second appearance of 2018 at Crystal Bay Casino’s Crown Room on Wednesday night. Exhibiting no ill-affects of winding down a lengthy fall tour, The CRB showed once again why it among the finest group of professional musicians to grace the North Shore’s best stage.
Playing with ease and grace, the quintet, led by vocalist and guitar player Chris Robinson, appeared loose and comfortable from the get-go. Perhaps it was the familiar setting and knowing that with one more long bus ride they’d be sleeping in their own beds. Or maybe it was the size of the crowd, normally teeming with hard-core party goer, and bordering on over-crowded, Wednesday’s throng had room to dance and sing along without the overly medicated crowd jostling that was so prevalent this past February.
Whatever it was, the first set was an absolute pleasure to experience. Not overly raucous in terms of jams or tempo, it was even and expertly performed as confident glances and smiles were exchanged onstage. Aside from an extended guitar jam from Neal Casal on the third tune in, “Meanwhile In The Gods,” the opening stanza was played crisply and unhurried.
Robinson and the foundation of drummer Tony Leone and bassist Jeff Hill took the crowd on an eight-song journey featuring rock, soul, R&B, and funk, including “Cannonball Rag,” where the pair of beat stewards seemed to having their own little jam that they let the rest of band contribute to. Robinson’s vocals on the band’s cover of Percy Mayfield’s catchy 1950’s era blues-rock tune “Loose Lips” was a highlight, along with a bouncy piano solo from keyboard wizard Adam MacDougall on the same song.
While their last appearance in Lake Tahoe featured a heavy dose of their latest album, “Barefoot In The Head,” Wednesday’s set list nearly ignored it.
The second set kicked of with “Leave My Guitar Alone” from 2016’s “Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel,” and featured a pair of beautifully sung tunes from Robinson with “Reflections On A Broken Mirror” and “If You Had a Heart To Break,” the latter the only offering from the latest album. As evidenced in prior performances, Robinson clearly enjoys singing “Heart,” which gives him a chance to show off his underrated vibrato, and is such a departure from the vocal style that brought him to prominence with The Black Crowes.
While the deliveries up to that point had bordered on pretty, the band saved some energy at the end to satisfy its psychedelic jam fans, as well. Stringing together an uninterrupted trio of “Rare Birds,” “Tuff Mama” and ”Ride” for nearly 30 minutes, MacDougall’s keys produced the atmosphere for Casal’s guitar to frolick as The CRB took everyone on an interstellar journey with an occasional swim through a gooey, phosphorescent lava lamp.
After a three-night run this weekend at San Francisco’s Fillmore, The Chris Robinson Brotherhood will earn a nice break. Though knowing Robinson and Casal’s penchant for not staying idle too long, you’ll have a chance to catch them again soon in one of their side projects.
— Michael Smyth