CHRIS ROBINSON at the Phoenix, August 28. Tickets: $25. Attendance: 500. Rating: NN
Nobody who paid to see chrisRobinson's acoustic show at the Phoenix really expected the bearded Black Crowes singer to do all the hits. But neither did they count on being shut out cold. Since Robinson's solo debut disc, New Earth Mud, is being released next month by the Redline subsidiary of U.S. consumer electronics megalith Best Buy, it's understandable that he'd want to show off the new stuff.
However, it was asking a lot of a crowd composed of ardent Black Crowes fans to stand through a performance of unfamiliar songs without so much as a chorus of a Crowes tune.
After 45 minutes of boring coffeehouse blues and folk jams lazily strummed by Robinson, seated next to sidekick picker Paul Stacey (who plays on the album), people were getting fidgety and started chatting about a possible baseball strike.
So incensed was Robinson that he leapt from his chair and began chastising the crowd, snivelling, "I can hear what you're saying," suggesting the talkers "go to a sports bar." He then sat back down and continued playing while people kept gabbing.
The performance wouldn't have been quite so tedious if the new songs were actually exciting or at least intriguing, but Robinson's reliance on embarrassing clichés like "apple of my eye" wasn't doing it.
When he went into the Carpenters hit Close To You, it seemed like a lounge-lizard gag -- perhaps a little Bobby Bittman shtick for the sake of Eugene Levy, who happened to be there. The real joke was that Robinson's hilariously over-the-top wailing wasn't meant as a put-on.
It was telling that Robinson's introduction of "special guest"Gordie Johnson on banjo drew the most enthusiastic cheers of the night. Then Johnson spent the encore trying not to play the banjo. Perfect.