London Shepherds Bush Empire

[B]The Black Crowes[/B] are the [a]Stones[/a] if [B]Altamont[/B] had never happened...

Anyone who saw the recent [a]Rolling Stones[/a] tour could be forgiven for thinking rock’n’roll pretty much dead in the water, reduced to one last tiresome charade to finance a joylessly extravagant lifestyle. Tonight, though, the Crowes resurrect hip-shakin’, foot-stomping rock music and put on the show the [a]Stones[/a] are too old, lazy and uninspired to give us any more.

Much of the credit belongs to frontman Chris Robinson, a man with the kind of torturously toned figure you just can’t achieve at the gym. Poured into a pair of criminally tight, velvet loonpants, wearing beads so long they that graze his kneecaps, he shakes, shivers, shimmies, like a spinning top careering maniacally off its axis. This is a man who cannot deliver his between-song patter without singing every single word of it. A star with, thankfully, no sense of irony. It’s a soul thing, y’see.

It’s difficult to imagine Robinson offstage as any different to Robinson onstage, he seems so comfortable. Through white-hot car-chase funk, through brutally cool Stax-esque R&B workouts, through lean, mean rock’n’roll magic like ‘Twice As Hard’ or a salvational ‘Sting Me’, he’s lost in the groove, enjoying the show as much as the audience. When, during a frankly lumpen ‘Hard To Handle’, a punter runs onstage, the band stop on a die, while Robinson swings the mic-stand at him. Robinson snarls, no doubt more because he missed his target than the interruption.

The question is, of course, whether the Crowes will ever be able to stamp their Deep South musical bouillabaisse with enough of their flavour to eventually make it their own. Songs like ‘P25 London’ and encore ‘Remedy’ suggest yes. Regardless, they are consummate experts in their field, entertainers with a faultless, instinctually organic feel for their audiences. Which probably explains why they are selling out the Empire, and Gay Dad are not.

The Black Crowes are the [a]Stones[/a] if Altamont had never happened. Before ridiculous fortunes ruined them. Before Mick started taking entire wardrobes of silk blousons on tour with him. Before they sucked, basically. Cherish them.