Salvation, bootlegs and mid-morning revelations
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
Here’s a quick ode to “Sometimes Salvation” and the stuff that can fly above everything else.
I should set the scene quickly. The other day I was zipping up and down Massachusetts, basically playing Santa and dropping off presents in a quick-hit fashion for the people I'd normally see around Christmas, but obviously won't be able to, because I'm a reasonable person who takes the news seriously and doesn't feel like inflicting myself or others with scarring on the lungs or a possible coma. Anyway.
I was probably on Route 24 bending towards the Cape when this came up in my car. After some quality time with Marc Ford’s solo catalog, I'd recently re-attended to all the Black Crowes bootlegs on my phone, and I was cranking their March 22, 1995, show at New York City's Beacon Theatre in my Nissan while I dealt with bizarrely aggressive drivers on a late Monday morning. Where were they going with so much rage at 11 a.m.? I changed lanes and let their rage pass on to the next driver. ‘Tis the season, and whatnot.
In the meantime, I’m keeping track of the music while having not having had to be in a car driving long distances for some time, still listening along with my planned soundtrack. I'd heard this show a few of times before, but obviously with never the proper attention, because when this song came up it just floored me. I almost lost track of where I was on the road.
Some background: this was apparently the night where Chris and Rich Robinson got in a major fight before the show, even greater than usual, and subsequently agreed that it would be their last before the band broke up (quickly: they did not break up that night). So the two of them started the show acoustic as a duo with "Cursed Diamond," the band filed in slowly thereafter, and the show ramped up in intensity as the evening went on. They were hot on the heels of their third album Amorica and arguably their creative peak, and they were playing as such. They jammed into “Thorn in My Pride” with all their creative fury, before rolling right into the might of “My Morning Song” and all the sunrise beauty of that descending jam, building and breaking and boiling over the edge of collective beauty.
At this point, about midway through they show, they are literally playing as if it's their last night as a band — Chris' vocals are ridiculous, the guitars from Ford and Rich are from another planet, Steve Gorman's drums are thundering from the gods as they roll on. Ford’s solo in particular — a burst of manic, first-take brilliance on its Southern Harmony & Musical Companion studio recording — is particularly biting and ruthless. On a bad night, the soul and fire of that song is impossible to ignore. Whatever was going on this evening, it was all amplified and exaggerated to the point that I’m almost missing exits years later.
For all of their issues, good god, when they were rolling and in sync and determined, there's hardly anyone who could touch them. And I'm thankful some of this got preserved so that, 25 years later, I could be reminded of just that while I wound through highways and that mist that kicks up and clouds windshields a day or two after it snows.
Good music transcends everything. This is good music.
Dec. 23, 2020
Email Nick Tavares at firstname.lastname@example.org