Show Review: A Musical & Metaphysical Trek on the Lake with the Chris Robinson Brotherhood

Words by Alex Smith
Published August 5, 2016

As The Chris Robinson Brotherhood conclude their seven show southeastern stretch of their tour before heading north, they came packing heat to match the outdoor summer heat of Wilmington, NC. CRB welcomed us to their summer tour dates earlier this month with a Facebook post stating: “Come join your freaky bliss merchants for a musical & metaphysical trek through July & beyond! Come dance yer blues away in the pleasure palaces of America! Music for heads by heads. The CRB Loves You!” On July 23rd, that ‘pleasure palace’ was the beautiful outdoor Greenfield Lake Amphitheater (1,200 capacity), complete with an impressive tailgate scene as well as picturesque views of the lake and a sunset that pierced through the tall pines down onto the excited audience.

At 7:10 P.M., “Leave My Guitar Alone” opened things up in a rockin’ fashion. This tune will be featured on the band’s new album, Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel, and has been a go-to opener for this tour. Guitarist Neal Casal gave the crowd the first taste of the ripping guitar solos in-store for the night. The whole band quickly revealed that they were not going to let the summer heat keep them from delivering a top-notch performance.

Next up, keyboardist Adam MacDougall began an upbeat piano melody followed by some slide guitar play from Casal to lead the group into “Forever as the Moon,” another from the new album, with the lyrics “Anyway you love, we know how you feel!” which inspired its title. Chris Robinson confidently led his bandmates through this one as they provided the backing vocals. The Brotherhood keeps the energy rolling with Frank Motley’s “Try Rock & Roll,” which provided instructions to “clap your hands, stomp your feet” during the first cover of the night. MacDougall got his first of many chances to show off his Minimoog Model D keyboard with a short but sweet synth solo, which got the crowd moving.

A slow, building intro lead us into the crowd favorite, “Wheel Don’t Roll,” which proceeded at a blissful and leisurely pace. Many an audience member could be heard singing along with the lyrics that encouraged them to set their souls free. The gospel “Precious, Precious” was another treat of the newer material that perfectly complimented the sunset beaming down upon Greenfield Lake. The energy was revved up once again for “Meanwhile in the Gods…” which contained an extended jam that transitioned perfectly into yet another new track, “California Hymn.” While the audience may, or may not, have been familiar with the majority of the new material in the first set, they certainly were familiar with what may be the best-known CRB original to date, “Rosalee.” This version did not lack any of the jam momentum and spaciness it is known for, and was the perfect way to end the set as the sun came down.

Set break clocked in at around 30 minutes and allowed time for everyone in attendance, including several onlookers on boats and canoes who got a free show from the lake, to take a break and enjoy the natural surroundings. When the band took back to the stage, the sun was mostly down and the humid southern air had cooled off to a more comfortable temperature. “New Cannonball Rag” is one of the newest additions to the live repertoire, debuting at the tour opener in Charleston, SC. It has already taken up a welcome place as a second set opener, having been played in this slot every show since its debut, save for the previous night in Augusta, GA when it served as the show opener.

“Roan County Banjo” and “Shadow Cosmos” were a great pairing to lighten the mood and provided melodic vocals by Mr. Robinson and intimate interplay between the rest of the band. “Sometimes it’s the little things that get you through the night” are lyrics in the latter of these two songs that reminded those in attendance to appreciate these slower moments and take a breather from the hip-shaking. “Ain’t It Hard but Fair” provided another fun from the new album before slipping slowly into a well-timed and upbeat take on Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” This familiar and welcome cover gave way into The Black Crowes staple, “I Ain’t Hiding.” This song has its own life outside of The Black Crowes, as Robinson has adapted CRB’s version to have its own sound with a slightly slower tempo than when played by the band that popularized it.

The crowd was visibly pumped from the back-to-back covers, and the excitement continued as they were then treated to two of the most well-regarded originals, one old and one new. “Vibration & Life Suite” has been around as long as the band, and provided a late second set jam vehicle to send the band soaring. “Narcissus Soaking Wet” was released earlier this year as the newest studio single and has already become very familiar to CRB ‘freaks’ through the play it has gotten from their speakers and on the stage. “Narcissus” gave them what they wanted while at the same time left them begging for more as Chris Robinson and his ‘brothers’ concluded their second set.

The rousing crowd was easily able to bring the band back onto the stage for an encore by holding their beers in the air and screaming for the musicians and songs that they had one last chance to hear. When the Brotherhood took the stage for the encore, they gave a quick ‘thank you’ to the crowd before starting up their cover of “Saturday Night in Oak Grove, Lousiana” by Tony Joe White. The setlists for this show actually label the encore as “Saturday Night in Wilmington,” as it is common practice for CRB to title this song with the name of the city they’re performing in. This rocker sent the crowd into a celebratory Saturday frenzy to cap off the night. The encore ended at 9:50 P.M. on the dot, ensuring that the 10:00 hard curfew for the outdoor amphitheater was not breached. The self-described “freaky bliss merchants” delivered what they were selling, and there were no complaints to be heard on the walk out to the lot.

On this night, CRB laid down 13 originals and 4 covers, totaling 17 songs for a solid 2+ hours of music. New material was prevalent throughout the night, as it has been for this tour These new songs are quickly finding comfortable placements in the setlists while being mixed with old favorites. CRB continues their tour northward and will play several shows in states such as Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont. Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel was recently released on July 29, 2016.

For more information about The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, please visit their official website.

Chris Robinson Brotherhood. Greenfield Lake Amphitheater, Wilmington, NC. July 23, 2016.

Set 1: Leave My Guitar Alone, Forever as the Moon, Try Rock & Roll (Frank Motley), Wheel Don’t Roll, Precious, Precious, Meanwhile in the Gods…, California Hymn, Rosalee

Set 2: New Cannonball Rag, Roan County Banjo, Shadow Cosmos, Ain’t It Hard But Fair, It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue (Bob Dylan), I Ain’t Hiding (The Black Crowes), Vibration & Light Suite, Narcissus Soaking Wet
Encore: Saturday Night in Oak Grove, Louisiana

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