I've spent the last week making unmerciful fun of Chris Robinson's new project, his first foray back into playing the material that made him famous in 5 years. The band was woefully unrehearsed, have kept an identical setlist so far and are generally doing a disservice to the music I love so much. They've been the antithesis of everything his brother Rich and Marc Ford have created in The Magpie Salute.
Watching the opening night's show again on YouTube this morning I realized something. Everything I said above is true, and the imperfections are almost too numerous to mention, but that's not what bothers me the most.
Chris' heart just isn't in these songs or being a frontman anymore. And that's ok. I'm not really a fan of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, but when you see them live you can tell Chris is feeling the music in a way he hasn't for a long time. It's that same look he had in 1995 when the Crowes were at the peak of their powers. That look of being so wrapped up in the music you're creating that nothing else in that moment matters.
Watching As The Crow Flies just makes me sad. Even if they were musically perfect Chris is going through the motions with so little care he looks like he'd rather be almost anywhere else. I don't want to call this a "cash grab", but it's easy to be so cynical. Maybe Chris honestly thought he missed playing these songs. Whatever the real reasons ATCF exists, it looks like Chris now wishes they didn't. It's painfully obvious he'd rather be playing a 47 minute space jam on guitar than having to dance around and sing "Jealous Again" for the 10,000th time. And again, that's ok.
Or at least it would be ok, if he didn't try to sell us this as some celebration of The Black Crowes. Stick to what you love doing now and the ones who come along for the ride will be rewarded. Don't try and trick the rest of us.
As a wise man once said, "the music knows".