The Black Crowes & Carpe Diem

Last Sunday (24th March) I was presented with an opportunity. At around 4 in the afternoon I got a call from a drinking buddy of mine offering up a ticket for a Black Crowes gig he had going spare. It seemed the owner of the ticket had pulled out to go on a date and I could be the lucky recipient for a discount price if I wanted it.

I didn’t really know much of The Black Crowes. It’s not that I didn’t like them; it’s just that it was a band that passed me by. I was most certainly aware of them, especially in the 90s, I just hadn’t got around to listening to them.

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Sorry about the image quality of the pics – I never get good pics at gigs.

I didn’t really see this as a reason to stop me going though. I had enjoyed good live gigs before without knowing a single chord or lyric of the performer; a good show is a good show to me and I can always appreciate good musicianship & a great atmosphere. Opportunities like this don’t come around often so I decided to seize upon this one. So, by 8pm I was stood in the Manchester Academy with a beer in my hand waiting for The Black Crowes to come on.

It was a good show. These guys can jam and it’s obvious they’ve been crafting the art over many, many years. The whole show was tight and well rehearsed, even though they had announced a new band member (Jackie Greene – in fairness a seasoned pro himself according to his Wikipedia page), in fact the new guy blasted out some pretty incendiary solos that made me turn to my pal and state “that guy can play!”.

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There was a bit of a lull for me when the band unplugged and did 30 mins or so of acoustic guitar and mandolin based tunes. I was obviously not the only one who found the acoustic interlude a bit of a drag – as I popped out to nip the loo and swing by the bar for a fresh beer I noticed that large number of fellow attendees were doing the same as I. Still, the band soon plugged back in, turned the volume up (“too loud?” asked my friend – my god we’re getting old!) and got back to energetic retro riffs & electric solos.

As a side note; from a distance the drummer bore a striking resemblance to the foodie guy from The One Show.

I enjoyed the show quite a bit, so a few day’s later I went online and downloaded a greatest hits album, suspecting that at least some of the set would appear on a ‘best of’. What has been interesting is that I have not been enjoying the recorded stuff of theirs as much as I did live. There is an indefinable ingredient that was present in the live show but appears absent on the studio recordings. One observation I have made of the recordings is that the seem highly produced; lots of additional vocals from a backing choir, triple-tracked guitars and additional percussion, all of which were not evident in the live performance. There was something passionate and raw about the live performance that I don’t really sense in the ‘best of…’ too. I think it may be the little things that make the difference; the backing vocals are provided by the band, there is no indulgent & hippie style percussion, and the sound is more compelling and intense live. I did notice on iTunes that they had done a few live albums so I reckon I’ll check them out next to see if a bit of something I saw live is replicated on them.

Anyway – there may be a Black Crowes or Jackie Greene addition to The Ultimate Playlist yet as I explore the back catalogues more and more, but that isn’t the point here – the point is to seize these little opportunities when they come along. I got a random phonecall on a Sunday afternoon that resulted in an enjoyable night out and opened my ears up to a whole new band with a great back catalogue to explore and enjoy. Take those little chances when you get a random phonecall because there could be a great new experience on the horizon.

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