Chris Robinson is long of beard and graying, but still in possession of the skills that pushed his old band the Black Crowes to another level entirely. Back then, in front of the Crowes, Robinson was lightning in a bottle. These days, he’s tethered to the stage by a guitar, a surprise to those of us diehard Crowes fans who thought he could play nothing more complex than a cowbell. I never thought of the Crowes as just another in a long list of rock bands, or celebrities with loud amplifiers. They were the real deal, the rock and roll band that other bands claimed they wanted to be. The Crowes performed R&B-ish rock ginned up with drugs and Chris and brother Rich’s sibling hostility. It came as no surprise when the Black Crowes finally imploded and called it quits.
And that’s when Chris Robinson, now 51, stepped out as the more creative of the two brothers. Rich Robinson, the principal songwriter, would go on to run a Crowes tribute band called Magpie Salute. Meanwhile, Chris and a couple of ex-Crowes launched an original solo project called New Earth Mud, a band that felt right but that unexpectedly ended for reasons never explained. There followed a couple of Crowes reunions, and then in 2011 came the Chris Robinson Brotherhood.
There’s a local connection: George Sluppick was the group’s founding drummer. He’s since been replaced by Tony Leone, but when Sluppick lived in San Diego, he gigged with such roots performers as Robin Henkel and Billy Watson. A word of caution: don’t go to a Brotherhood show looking for Crowes songs. Not happening. This is a jam band with the Grateful Dead’s fingerprints all over it. You want 1960s San Francisco? This band has that, along with an audience that is willing to follow Chris Robinson away from the music and the fury that first endeared him to them.
Chris Robinson Brotherhood: Friday, December 7, Observatory North Park, 619-239-8836, 7 p.m., $25/$249, all ages