Chris Robinson uttered the phrase “acoustic mellow thing” into his microphone at the outset of his Wednesday night show, and those words served as both a forecast and a promise. The lanky, bearded singer, who is pursuing other projects while the Black Crowes are on hiatus, performed an acoustic, low-key set featuring a crop of new songs that could end up on his forthcoming debut solo album.
After taking a seat in a folding chair beside guitarist Paul Stacey on the candle-decorated stage, Chris Robinson was quick to address his out-of-character Jackson Browne-like haircut, which he jokingly referred to as the “folk singer No. 1” style. Shortly thereafter, Robinson, who accompanied himself on rhythm guitar, launched into “Silver Car,” a slow tune highlighted by simple strumming and clean, open chords. During “Sunday Sound,” his second song of the evening, he sang in a very relaxed voice, displaying a mild country twang as well as his customary soulful swagger.
The singer peppered his performance with some choice covers, including his take on “Iíve Got a Woman” (also known as ìI Got a Womanî), a No. 1 R&B single for Ray Charles in 1955. For that song, the uninhibited Robinson kept time by tapping his feet in an alternating fashion, much like an old-time blues musician. He also tackled Badfinger’s “Day After Day,” but not before admitting that he just learned the song. Robinson remembered most of the lyrics, and Stacey did a good job replicating the tune’s droopy signature guitar lick.
Chris Robinson was in good spirits, taking time between songs to crack a few one-liners and share a few short stories. A cry of “Oasis sucks!” from the balcony prompted him to say, “They’re in England. You’ll have to yell a little louder.” After the crowd’s laughter died down, Robinson talked about the time he found Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher passed out in a bathroom following a bit of backstage partying.
“And it’s true,” Robinson said of the tale, while also pointing out that he met Stacey, whose studio credits include Madonna in addition to Oasis, on that occasion. They quickly segued into “Mother of Stone,” a heavier-sounding number that could have passed for a Black Crowes outtake.
Among the other new songs Robinson performed were “Better Than the Sun,” “Untangle My Mind” and “Mint Tea.” While his guitar skills are average at best, he remains a captivating, powerhouse singer, and that becomes even more evident in an acoustic setting.
Early in his set, Chris Robinson good-naturedly said that his solo album is “gonna come out eventually,” so until that day comes, keep an eye out for additional concert dates.
By Chris M. Junior
June 19, 2002 – The Bowery Ballroom, New York