Black Crowes play St. Petersburg's Mahaffey Theatre

After 23 years, most of the band's classic lineup is still intact

mclear@bradenton.comApril 25, 2013 

Their biggest hits came more than two decades ago on their debut album, and a couple of prolonged periods of down time have destroyed any momentum they built in their early years. But the Black Crowes are back again and their fans are as enthusiastic as ever.

The Crowes started touring Great Britain and the United States this year and they're coming to the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg on April 30.

Unlike a lot of bands that started out in the '90s and have been on hiatus several times since, the Crowes still have the core of their "classic" lineup -- dynamic singer Chris Robinson, his brother, guitarist Rich Robinson; and drummer Steve Gorman. Bassist Sven Pipien has been with the Black Crowes since 1998, keyboardist Adam MacDougall came on board a few years ago and guitarist Jackie Greene replaced Luther Dickinson at the start of this tour.

The new tour has thus far been getting strong reviews. The Black Crowes are apparently playing almost all of their hits, which came mainly from their classic 1990 album "Shake Your Money Maker." "Jealous Again," "Hard to Handle," "Twice as Hard" and "She Talks to Angels" were all on that first album.

Later Crowes albums didn't spawn major hits, and probably didn't expand the band's audience base. But there were some great albums over the years, especially 1992's "Southern Harmony and Musical Companion," that kept their existing fans fiercely loyal.

One thing that has always set the Crowes apart is their willingness to pay tribute to the roots and their blues and rock inspirations with frequent cover versions. "Hard to Handle" was, of course, an Otis Redding song, and they pepper their live sets with obscure songs by people like Joe Cocker, Delaney and Bonnie, Leon Russell, Joe South and Ry Cooder.

The Robinson brothers are strong songwriters themselves. "Hard to Handle" is the band's only major hit that Chris and Rich Robinson didn't write, and their blues-based, slightly retro-sounding compositions easily stand their ground against covers penned by Russell or Redding.

Incidentally, the show is probably going to sell out, and some sections of the Mahaffey (all the upfront seats, for example) are sold out already. So it's be wise to get tickets soon if you want to go.

Details: 7:30 p.m. April 30, Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St. S., St. Petersburg. Tickets: $39.50-$49.50. Information: 727-892-5767 or www.themahaffey.com

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-748-0411. ext. 7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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