The Black Crowes have a well-deserved reputation as one of rock's best live acts.
The Crowes were in their element Wednesday night when their 2009 Stuck Inside Utopia Tour flew into Penn's Peak.
It fact, it might have been too much excitement for some of the over 1,000 in attendance for the first Crowes' show at The Peak since their debut at the Jim Thorpe venue in July, 2008.
The Crowes' latest recordings, the two disc set Before The Frost ... After the Freeze, play into their strengths on stage. The album features new material recorded live at Levon Helm's studios at Woodstock, New York. The second of the two discs, .... After The Freeze, is available for downloading on line with a code included with the purchase of Before The Frost.
The concept serves The Crowes and their new batch of songs well. Recording at the studios of Helm seems to have added an organic feel to the tunes, much like that of Helm's own group, The Band.
The Peak setlist was heavy on the new songs, with half of the 18 numbers coming from the just-released discs.
The current edition of Crowes is still led by the Robinson brothers, with Chris singing lead and adding guitar, harmonica and blues harp as needed while Rich holds down the fort on guitar. The band is rounded out by guitarist Luther Dickinson, keyboard play Adam McDougall, bassist Sven Pipien and drummer Steve Gorman, augmented by two female backing singers.
The Crowes hit the stage with a rousing one-two of Frost songs, "Good Morning Captain" and "Kept My Soul". Chris strolled out wearing a funky hat and Army jacket, and the band immediately hit its groove as he belted out his soulful vocals.
Next up was "Movin' on Down the Line", from The Crowes' 2008 album Warpaint, which featured an ethereal-sounding opening. "Bring on Bring on", from the Three Snakes and One Charm album, saw them dip into pyschedelia, with an Allman Brothers-like break.
Chris brought out the acoustic guitar for "Appaloosa", a country-flavored standout from Frost, and that vibe continued on "Roll Old Jeremiah" from the online Freeze album.
The Crowes began to shift gears with "Wee Who See the Deep", a jam from Warpaint, when some action in front of the band began to get too hot and heavy for Chris Robinson's comfort. An altercation that broke out in the crowd caused an irate Chris to call for the band to stop and the lights to be turned on until things calmed down.
"We're going to sit down and let the band take care of it," said Chris as he launched into a tirade. "The thing they forget is, sometimes hippies have a lot of punk rock in them, too."
Once things settled down, The Crowes poured their aggression into their playing, which brought everything back into focus. "Sometimes it takes some psychedelic music to clear the air," stated Chris.
The Crowes continued performing their newer tunes, with the countryish "Houston Don't Dream About Me" and a rocking "Shine Along" among the highlights.
The band finally hit some familiar territory at the end of the set, with the propulsive "Sting Me" and the driving rhythm and blues of "Remedy", both from The Southern Harmony and Music Companion, which pumped up the crowd in a good way.
It's on nights like these that The Black Crowes deserve the title of The World's Most Rock'n'Roll Rock'n'Roll Band, with all its shades of meaning.
The Truth and Salvage Company, a band that is signed to The Crowes' Silver Arrow Records label and is produced by Chris Robinson, was the opening act for the evening.