The Black Crowes in Seattle

Thick theatre curtains and strings of market lights adorned McCaw Hall’s massive stage. Above, a large valance boasted a Poe-esque illustration depicting a gothic-style crow perched between the words “Happiness Bastards.” Its presence heralded the title and arrival of The Black Crowes’ 2024 release –a collection of newly minted material from the seminal Southern rock band- their first in 15 years. The name also an astute reference to beat poet Kirby Doyle’s work and is a clever nod to the Robinson brothers’ relationship. 

This dramatic backdrop framed a large-scale diorama-like display reminiscent of an old-school traveling medicine roadshow. Yet in the magical, harmonious world of The Black Crowes, who burst into the limelight with their unconventional sly style of R&B-soul meets unadulterated rock & roll nearly thirty-five years ago, made certain their oddities and curiosities were of the musical variety. Mirrored risers crammed with vintage tube amps and instruments were most notable with organs, keyboards, pianos, and rows of guitar racks aligned in the shadows. Fittingly, The Black Crowes' medicinal tinctures didn’t promise miracle cures, but massive-sounding melodic remedies steeped in Southern hospitality, all of which remained front and center through the evening. 

Keen on dissecting the intricate gear-centric scene, the sold-out crowd tried to ascertain Rich’s guitar/amp methodology, but their efforts were in vain when the house lights cut out suddenly. In almost complete darkness, the stage monitors careened into AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Want to Rock n’ Roll)” before blasting a cry from the MC5, “Kick out the jams motherf*ckers!” The call to all reignited the venue with a blaze of bright light and revealed Chris with his hip-swaying rockstar swagger and Rich with his stoic rockstar stare stomping in time to the four-count beat of “Bedside Manners,” the first track from Happiness Bastards (2024). The Robinson brothers and their superb backing band built on the show’s opening momentum as they moved into the second song, the resoundingly raucous “Rats and Clowns” (Happiness Bastards).  

Being adept at acknowledging and transforming rock n’ roll into its own gnarly artistry, The Black Crowes selected tracks that showcased their ability to perceive sonic subtleties and layer them together proficiently. Rich’s deep, unmistakable bluesy guitar sounds in The Black Crowes' classic hit “Twice as Hard” from 1990’s Shake Your Money Maker and Chris’ earnest, soulful wails in “Go Faster” from 1998’s By Your Side stood out as examples. 

The brothers’ innate ability to tweak tenor and tone remained prominent through the duration of their performance as they seamlessly intertwined sounds from the past with the present. The delicate acoustic guitar intro escalating into a soul-searing serenade in “Cross Your Fingers,” from Happiness Bastards, effortlessly sat alongside “She Talks to Angels,” the heartfelt hit from the band’s momentous debut,1990’s Shake Your Money Maker, a song that continues to resonate with listeners through the airwaves and Spotify playlists of today.  

The Black Crowes continued to craft their superb sounding show with new material from Happiness Bastards, the rock-meets-soul single “Wanting and Waiting,” and the gritty, gospel-tinged “Dirty Cold Sun.” The band didn’t forget some of their best full-throttle throwbacks as they performed a few of their most beloved tracks. “Hard to Handle,” a cover by one of the Robinson brothers’ many musical heroes, Otis Redding, and “Jealous Again,” their slinky debut single, both from 1990’s Shake Your Money Maker, are just a few noteworthy gems.  

While The Black Crowes’ musical roadshow could have played through the night, it ultimately drew toward a close with the band playing the soulful “Remedy” from 1992’s The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. As ones who like to defy norms, The Black Crowes chose a singular track to shut down the show, the story-telling-piano-driven “Good Morning Captain” from 2009’s Before the Frost…Until the Freeze. The selection of songs from the entire performance ensured that while The Black Crowes might disappear from the mainstream radar from time to time, their role in preserving the history of R&B, soul, and all-out rock n’ roll will remain.  

Bedside Manners 

Rats and Clowns

Twice as Hard 

Kept My Soul 

Go Faster

Cross Your Fingers

Road Runner (Bo Diddley)  

Seeing Things 

Dirty Cold Sun

Wanting and Waiting 

Hard to Handle (Otis Redding)

She Talks to Angels 

Flesh Wound 

Sting Me 

Jealous Again 



Good Morning Captain