On a rainy Friday night in San Francisco I headed to the venerable Fillmore Theater to check out the Chris Robinson Brotherhood on the second night of a three-night run. After retrieving our photo pass and tickets from the box office we headed into the theater. The show was not sold out though there was a decent line of people buying walk up tickets. The show ended up reaching around 85% capacity, which was fine as it meant there would not be a lot of pushing and shoving allowing me to get decent photos and enjoy the show comfortably. After grabbing a can of Brotherhood Steam beer with 5.3% alcohol level (brewed right here in San Francisco) we waited for the show to start.
The crowd filling in was definitely a mixed demographic. You had the veterans weaned from the Grateful Dead in the 80’s and 90’s. You also had a nice mixture of younger people probably drawn by the prospect of seeing Chris Robinson, front man for the Black Crowes. You could almost divide the demographic by the glow of vape lights or the flicker of lighter flames.
Robinson has traded in the arena sized Black Crowes spectacles for more intimate settings with him playing rhythm guitar in addition to his always stellar vocals. With Neal Casal (creator of the Grateful Dead’s 50th anniversary intermission music, later released as ‘Circles of the Sun’) and keyboardist Adam MacDougall (keyboardist during the later years of The Crowes), The Brotherhood has been creating their jam band niche since 2012. They draw their live material mostly from their now five original albums two of which have been released this year – Anyway You Love, We Know How Your Feel in July of 2016 and If You Live Here, You Would be Home By Now in November of 2016. The have all been released on the independent label Silver Arrow. The band also dips into the Chris Robinson and the New Earth Mud repertoire as well from 2002 and 2004. Friday was no exception.
The first set had 8 songs, all originals except for a Nazareth cover titled ‘I Want To (Do Everything for You)’. The opener was the rocker ‘Leave My Guitar Alone’ from the July 2016 release with the closer ‘Sunday Sound’, a New Earth Mud tune from their first album. Adam MacDougal provided a nice extended keyboard solo on this tune which got the floor vibrating from the gyrations of the audience. Neal had several nice guitar solos throughout the set which got the audience cheering. The first set definitely was the more rocking set out of the two.
The nine song second set featured all original tunes opened and closed by ‘Rosalee’ from the Brotherhood’s Big Moon Ritual released in 2012. The second set seemed to be a little sleepier than the more rocking 1st set. A lot of talking developed amongst the audience as the set progressed. Also, the Brotherhood second sets usually include one or two great covers by the likes of Dylan, the Dead, The Black Crowes, or The Stones. A favorite cover of mine is their cover of Dylan’s ‘Tough Mama’. Alas, no ‘Tough Mama’ tonight. However, they did encore three straight T-Rex songs – ‘Rabbit Fighter’ into ‘The Slider’ and ending with ‘Bang a Gong’. That last one got the crowd jumping and excited to pick up their mushroom themed poster as they left the Fillmore.
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