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Black Crowes take time getting warmed up, but end up rocking

OCT. 20, ATLANTA CIVIC CENTER -- When the hometown boys opened the show with "Midnight From the Inside Out," from their latest album Lions, even a super-duper fan (such as me) wouldn't get the rush of adrenaline of past Black Crowes shows. Something about the first few songs -- including "Sting Me" and "Go Faster" -- just didn't set the hall on fire. Chris Robinson was doing his usual jumping and dancing, but something was missing.

Then Chris started talking about finding that place where you can be free to be whomever you want. The band broke into "Greasy Grass River," another tune from the latest album, and Chris sang, "Life is so easy on Greasy Grass River/Just take my hand and we can pretend to be free."

The band rocked competently through "Black Moon Creeping," "Cursed Diamond," "Sometimes Salvation" and a few others. Finally, the crowd was rewarded with a gem from Three Snakes and One Charm. When Rich Robinson opened with the first two lines of "How Much for Your Wings?", the audience went nuts. Crowes die-hards aren't just there to hear the radio hits or the studio version of the song -- and the band obliges by mixing up their set list each night with extended versions and some of the more obscure songs from its six-album catalog.

The audience's enthusiasm may have worn off on the band, because here's where the show really got good. During the first two lines of "Thorn in My Pride" -- "Wake me when the day breaks, show me how the sun shines" -- the curtains behind the stage parted to reveal a huge tapestry with a bright orange and yellow sun painted in the middle. The sun's rays were made from cloth that, thanks to an automatic fan, flapped in the breeze. The Crowes definitely picked up the pace once the sun came out.

Breaking into a little funk fest in the middle of "Thorn in My Pride" brought the show up a notch. Drummer Steve Gorman did his solo and Chris showed off his harmonica skills, which added a little bluesy action. The jam built to a furious pace until the dancers in the audience could hardly keep up with the beat. Then the band dropped back into the chorus of "Thorn."

The blues gave way to soul, and the band dropped back to a chuggin' reggae groove for Bob Marley's "Time Will Tell." Next came the joyous gospel rave-up of "Soul Singing," from Lions. The crowd joined in on the call-and-response chorus each time it came around, suggesting that the song will be a staple in the band's repertoire for some time to come.

The band threw in the title track of By Your Side and a couple of more tunes from older albums -- including hits like "Jealous Again" and "Twice as Hard" -- before leaving the stage. They returned to play the mellow "Miracle to Me," from Lions, a good choice for a first encore that allowed audience members to catch their breath. Chris then introduced "an old one," and Rich slammed out the familiar chords of the Stones' "Can't You Hear Me Knockin." The band worked its way through the layered jam that ends the song, with Rich and Audley Freed trading blistering guitar solos that reached a swirling crescendo, then crashed to a halt to end the show.

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