But those who showed up to hear the fresh sound of a new chapter in Robinson's career were pleased to see that the concert more than lived up to expectations.
With a sound more akin to the Grateful Dead than the Black Crowes, Chris Robinson Brotherhood defines its music as "Psychedelic filling in a Folk Blues pie." That's a pretty perfect description. Starting promptly at 8 p.m., CRB began a three-hour musical journey with two complete sets of its special blend of Southern-tinged psychedelic blues-rock.
Though the band bears his name, Robinson isn't the only one with an impressive musical resume. He brought with him Black Crowes keyboardist Adam MacDougall. Standout guitarist Neal Casal has a successful solo career as well as a long stint with Ryan Adams and the Cardinals. Drummer George Sluppick, a Memphis native, earned his chops on Beale Street and has played with the likes of B.B. King, Albert King and Carl Perkins, as well as a five-year stint with Jacksonville, Fla. blues-rock band J.J. Grey and Mofro; and bassist Mark "Muddy" Dutton was a member of hard-rock band L.A. Guns.
The fact that they never came near a Black Crowes song is a clear sign that Robinson has moved on to greener pastures. The more mellow, peaceful tone of CRB's music could be an indication of his own more relaxed attitude, free from his long-tumultuous professional and personal relationship with his brother, guitarist Rich Robinson.
The band played most of the songs on its just-released album "Big Moon Ritual," particularly in the first set. Lengthy, Dead-like jam "Tulsa Yesterday," featured one of the evening's numerous guitar solos by Casal, seeming to channel Jerry Garcia himself at times with his sound. Other mellow hippie jams from the album included "Star or Stone" and "One Hundred Days of Rain."
The band gave a nod to the obvious influence with a cover of the Grateful Dead's "Bertha," and also did a groovy cover of the Three Dog Night song "Never Been to Spain." Tunes from Robinson's solo album "New Earth Mud," were also woven throughout, including the hard-edged "Mother of Stone" and heavy ballad "Train Robbers," on which his signature, soulful vocals simply shined.
Throughout the show the band let its freak flag fly (literally, behind them on the stage) as numerous sticks of incense taped to amps billowed smoke around the stage, mingling with the scent of other (ahem) "burnable substances" wafting through the air.
The mellowness of the first set was balanced with a heavier groove in the second. The musicians kicked it off with a cover of "Saturday Night in Oak Grove, LA" by Tony Joe White, getting everyone on the floor moving and shaking. "Vibration & Light Suite" provided a chance for MacDougall to show off on the keys.
Dutton laid down the funky bass line for "Ride," and the set hit a hit a high note with crowd pleaser "Rosalee," an upbeat anthem from the new album with Robinson leading the crowd in the chorus, "Is the air gettin' thinner, or are we getting high?" (Both, I think, was the answer to that question). They closed out with churchy "Sunday Sound," MacDougall giving it a gospel edge on the keyboards.
If last night's show was any indication, the next phase for Robinson may just be the sweetest. He's handpicked some of the finest musicians playing today to accompany him on his new musical adventure -- and I'm happily along for the ride.
Set list (from Chris Robinson Brotherhood official Facebook):
Someday Past the Sunset
Mother of Stone
100 Days of Rain
Never Been to Spain (Three Dog Night cover)
Star of Stone
Bertha (Grateful Dead cover)
Badlands Here We Come
Saturday Night in Oak Grove, LA (Tony Joe White cover)
Jump essay writer the Turnstile
Vibration & Light Suite
Goodbye Wheeling (Mel Tillis cover)
Older Guys (Flying Burrito Brothers cover)