Monday, July 10, 2006

Black Crowes/Robert Randolph/Drive-by Truckers

On Friday, June 23, I went with friends to see the Black Crowes, Robert Randolph, and Drive-by Truckers at the UMB Bank Pavilion. I hadn’t been to the UMB Bank Pavilion since Radiohead played in August of 2003. For those of you that don’t live here in St. Louis, UMB (or “Riverport” as I still call it; I still refer to Starplex in Dallas, too) is your standard, bland, corporate amphitheater with a nice big grassy lawn and $8 beers.

My tickets and drinks were free, though, thanks to a generous friend’s employer (or was it my friend’s generous employer?), and it was on a Friday night, so I really had no reason not to go. Drive-by Truckers played first and their set began at the impossibly early hour of 7pm. We got there just in time to hear the last song of their set, “Let There Be Rock.” I am a big fan of Drive-by Truckers – especially their live shows – but this show didn’t seem quite right. Maybe it was the early starting time (and therefore sober status of the audience), the fact that it was still daylight out, or the fact that approximately 1/10 of the crowd was there even by the time their set ended (causing the sound to echo terribly), but it was, for the one song I saw, the worst DBT show I have seen.

I hate to admit it, but we spent the entirety of Robert Randolph’s set in the concourse drinking beer. I’ve seen him before and he puts on a great show, but there is nothing about that venue that makes you want to watch a show, so, combined with the buzzkill that was the Drive-by Truckers’ show, we just got liquored up during his set.

When the Black Crowes took the stage, we made our way to the grass. They sounded great and were full of energy, but the setlist was pretty weak. Now, I’m sure hardcore fans will scoff at me for saying so, because I’m sure some of the songs they played were rarely played, but for us casual, non-obsessive fans, it was very weak. I am certainly not someone that is a fan of musicians who cater to the whims of mass culture and appeal, but if they are going to play amphitheaters that are essentially and ultimately populist centers of entertainment, you’d think they would have taken that fact into consideration when creating their setlist for the night. That’s all I’m saying.

And I’m sure some of this is based on the fact that the three previous times I have seen them, they were great, playing long sets that mixed plenty of the popular with the obscure. I generally always love Black Crowes shows. And I know that at least 50% o the set will be songs that I’m not familiar with. The last time I saw them was on my birthday, last October. The time before was at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Easter Night in 2005. And the first time I saw them was in London in 1998. So I guess I have some pretty strong memories that I am comparing this show against, so my thoughts should be taken with a grain of salt.

Anyway, here are the torrents to all three sets of the evening, so you can decide for yourself:
Black Crowes - Live in St. Louis, 6/23/06
Robert Randolph & The Family Band - Live in St. Louis, 6/23/06
Drive-by Truckers - Live in St. Louis, 6/23/06


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