The Chris Robinson Brotherhood and the songs of Barefoot in the Head hit the Civic on Sunday, 9/17

PHOTO: JON CORNICKThe last time the Chris Robinson Brotherhood was in town was for an outdoor show for Hogs For the Cause last spring. Before that it was two shows at Tipitina’s. The neo-psychedelic rock band graduates to the Civic Theatre with a performance on Sunday night.

Chris Robinson may be best known in these parts as one of the founders of The Black Crowes—a band steeped in southern rock and its accompanying mythos. But since that group went on extended hiatus he has traded the drawl of the south for the mystical lyricism and sterling guitar work associated with California.

Though I was never a big Black Crowes fan, I did see their show at the Civic a couple of years back—Robinson and his tighter-than-the-proverbial-drum ensemble have grown on me like a foraged mushroom.

The Black Crowes took some of their cues from those titans of southern rock, The Allman Brothers. Robinson has stated in interviews his unabashed love for the Grateful Dead. While the all-encompassing ethos made famous by the Dead over three decades is now relatively mainstream in the jam band community, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood appears to be truly living it beyond what happens on stage.

They self release and produce their recordings. They make live shows available to their family of fans, albeit on a for-pay basis; a necessity in the new era of streaming, and they are prolific, releasing new music on almost continuously. They maintain a state-of-art social media presence belying the need for traditional media coverage, which is analogous to the Dead’s decision early on to be their own ticket office.

The latest album, Barefoot in the Head, came out in July on the heels of an album and EP last year. To my ears it is both a continuation and a culmination. The band went through some personnel changes in the past two years and now has a new rhythm section. Both in the live setting and on recordings, they sound like a well-oiled machine.

The inability to translate the live experience to albums that plagued the Grateful Dead doesn’t affect this band. The records don’t capture what it’s like seeing them on stage nor do they even make an attempt. They are separate entities allowing listeners to indulge in strong production work while devouring Robinson’s lyrics, which evoke poetry in the vein of the great bards.

Live—this band rocks.

Show time is 8 PM.

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