The Chris Robinson Brotherhood kicked off their winter tour at Denver's Ogden Theatre on Thursday night, and what a tour opener it was. Denver is a favorite haunt of the band; they have done a good majority of their NYE shows there. So Denver was a logical place to open up the tour. Other than California, the CRB probably enjoys its most devoted fan base in the Mile High City. And the band treated us to some of their best songs, some choice covers, and a live debut.
CRB came out rocking with a cover of “Lazy Days.” Gram Parsons would have been proud. Chris then asked Denver if we were cool. He joked, “of course you’re cool, I’ll come up with something better.” And they did, although the CRB certainly eased into it. They slid into the southern mellow of “Roane County Banjo” next. The lyrics sound like a Buddhist monk hermit living in the cricks, crags, and hollers of Appalachia wrote them on the walls of a cave. But then again, that’s a pretty good way to describe Chris Robinson.
All together the first set was pretty mellow and contemplative, with the melancholy melody of “About A Stranger;” and the heavy, laden sound of “Meanwhile in the Gods,” which was the first song lead guitarist Neal Casal and the band stretched their legs on a bit. But the jam was a harbinger of what was to come. “California Hymn” brought the mellowness back but still featured an interesting improve sesh with Neal exhibiting some tasty licks and slide guitar work. You could tell CRB were getting their legs underneath them.
Next, they shined a light on the mystery with “Beggars Moon, then played “Sunday Sound,” which contained an amazing solo section from keyboardist Adam MacDougall that not only impressed the crowd but also the band. Tough to follow, but CRB closed down the first set with a rollicking “Rosalee.”
The second set was pretty much perfect. The band came out firing with the self-empowering anthem “New Cannonball Rag” before jumping into the topical stream of conscious tune “Forever As The Moon” off their latest record Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel. CRB then treated us to the live debut of “Blue Star Woman,” a great tune that will probably pop up on CRB’s next album (read our interview with Neal Casal). Then came the poetically profound “Star or Stone.” Chris Robinson is an amazing lyricist but he outdoes himself on this tune. It is literally a stellar song.
Next, we got a funky version of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue.” “Ain’t It Hard But Fair” preceded an epically jammy “Vibration & Light” suite, with everyone weighing in on their respective instruments, a really great jam. CRB appropriately closed down the second set with the clever centerpiece of their new album “Narcissus Soaking Wet.” And if that wasn’t enough, they came back out and blew everyone away with the Velvet Underground cover “Rock & Roll.” Lou Reed would have been proud. What did we take away from the tour opener? If these guys are coming to your town, don’t miss them.