Toronto, Canada – It was 32 years ago (almost to the day) when I first saw The Black Crowes at Toronto’s no longer existing Exhibition Stadium on June 29, 1990. This tour was in support of their debut release Shake Your Money Maker, which was released only four months prior on February 13, 1990. Unfortunately, the Toronto gig did not go overly well for the band. Certainly nothing that brothers Chris and Rich Robinson, or any of the other band members did wrong. You see, the lineup on this night was simply not within the same realm of the Bluesy Rock band from Atlanta.
The Black Crowes led off the musical event on this date, and were followed by glam rockers Warrant, a growing thrash giant called Metallica, and eventual headliners Aerosmith. I mean really, what a great lineup, and it’s all Rock ‘n Roll, but this is quite the swing of sub-genres. With all due respect to the headliners, Metallica stole this show. The crowd was made up of mostly 20 something metal heads (myself included) looking for a mosh pit, or to simply bang their heads. Unfortunately, the makeup of the crowd spelled a certain doom for the opening act, as they did not receive the welcome that is typical of us “friendly” Canadians. But not all was lost, as I went out after the show and bought their CD. Despite the jeers from the audience, I’m certain I wasn’t the only one.
The clear proof is in The Black Crowes’ 30+ year career. They are giants in their own rights, with a library of nine studio albums plus three greatest hits offerings. It is their debut release that sees the band celebrating 30 years (well, 32 minus Covid). This brings “The Black Crowes Presents: Shake Your Money Maker” Tour to Toronto on July 6, 2022, where we see them play the album in its entirety, in order (among a selection of other hits). Personally, I love this concept!
Further proof to their success over the decades were the 16,000 fans at Toronto’s Budweiser Stage, the venue of choice for summer concerts in this city. These fans were here to see THEM, and they were received with the welcome they deserve.
This was one of the coolest, most original set designs I have ever seen. A massive backdrop featuring the recognizable inebriated crows. Boxes, speakers and amplifiers stacked about the stage and the façade of an old style saloon. There is also a bar set up. A bartender wipes down the counter. The band enters from stage left and hits the bar for a shot of their favorite elixir. A jukebox sits to the left of center stage. A blonde, curly haired woman in a short, black glittery dress walks up to the music machine, drops in a quarter, and selects her track. Out plays the sounds of female singers, harmonizing the lyrics “Shake Your Money Maker”. The band members take their respective positions and start in with the title track of the album that this show is dedicated to, “Twice as Hard”. And then comes frontman Chris Robinson, opened prop umbrella in hand, with black glittery pants, and jacket, partially covering the Siouxsie and the Banshees tee underneath. To top it off, the iconic wide, round brimmed hat.
Chris Robinson – Vocals
Rich Robinson – Lead Guitar
Sven Pipien – Bass Guitar
Isaiah Mitchell – Guitar
Brian Griffin – Drums
Joel Robinow – Keyboard
Lesley Grant – Background Vocals
Mackenzie Adams – Background Vocals
Let the fun ensue! With the album tracks being performed in sequence, it’s a feeling of putting the disc in your player for the 100th time, knowing what’s coming next, and being able to sing along to every song… cuz you know them all.
After photographing the standard first 3 songs, I head to my assigned seat to enjoy the rest of the show. While the show progresses through the completely solid tracks off the album, the Otis Redding cover “Hard to Handle” brings a roar, and fan favorite “She Talks to Angels” sees the cell phone flashlights fill the amphitheater. In a bit of irony, as the final album track, “Stare it Cold” ends, lead singer Chris Robinson takes off the glittery jacket. It certainly isn’t cold. In fact, it’s gotten quite hot!
Despite the greatness of this album, I’m personally a little more partial to their second release The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. Perhaps the Black Crowes are in a similar mindset, as the rest of the concert brought out performances of “No Speak No Slave”, “Sting Me”, “Thorn in my Pride” and “Remedy”. I mean, how much better can it get??
As I watch the show, I start to notice a couple things that seem a little peculiar to me. First, everybody is on their feet, singing and dancing, and they remain this way through the whole show. Hopefully it doesn’t seem odd to you, because this is a rock concert. The band gets an amount of energy from the crowd, as much as you do from them. Unfortunately, I’ve been to many shows over the past few years where most of the audience are sitting on their asses, in the seats! It’s a real pet peeve for me. Now, of course I’m not talking about individuals that need accessible seating, and I’m not talking about people who need to sit for a minute to give their feet a rest from standing and dancing on the hard concrete for a 3-4 hour show. Those things are inevitable. But if you are able, you should be doing your part! I was happy on this night to see the crowd fully immersed. They’re clearly here to see this great band, and to honor a great album.
Another peculiarity for me was the demographic. As I looked around, I saw many young people, in their early teens. I knew these weren’t merely drag-alongs by their parents. These were fans! I knew this because of the singing, dancing and air guitar/air drumming (in time) that was going on from these individuals. It makes me smile and lets me know that Rock and Roll is alive and well!
The band certainly faired astronomically better on this evening then they did 32 years ago. At least in this particular city. It’s a sign of a great band with a great career. I hope they don’t give up just yet. I think I can speak on behalf of the 16,000 in attendance (young and older), another visit will be graciously welcomed!
Twice as Hard
Could I’ve Been So Blind
Hard to Handle (Otis Redding cover)
Thick N’ Thin
She Talks to Angels
Stare It Cold
No Speak No Slave
Walk Believer Walk
Thorn in My Pride
Rocks Off (The Rolling Stones cover)
Show Date: July 6, 2022