Catch Black Crowes while you can

December 3, 2010 

The Black Crowes soon will be grounded indefinitely.

Their Say Goodnight to the Bad Guys tour will give local fans their last chance to shake their moneymakers to “Remedy,” “Hard to Handle” and other rock ’n’ soul hits Saturday night at Tacoma’s Emerald Queen Casino.

Recently, we called guitarist Rich Robinson at a tour stop in Baltimore to pick his brain about the first 20 years of “Croweology” – and to see whether the years had eased his tumultuous and creative relationship with his big bro, Chris:

I was wondering if you had any specific memories of playing in the Tacoma-Seattle area.

I remember one of the first times we played Seattle, we were opening for Robert Plant out there. And I remember it being a place we always look forward to going to.

There’s a cool theater there (the Paramount Theatre in Seattle) which was (on) the first headline … tour we ever did with Jellyfish opening for us. I remember that was really cool. We took a boat out on the Sound and stuff like that. It’s always been great. We’ve always loved going there.

What is it you like about this part of the country?

It’s beautiful. People love music. Early on when we would go there, I remember Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and all of these bands were starting. And I remember they would come to the shows and we’d all hang out.

Did you forge any friendships with those bands?

You know, we were friendly and then people go on tour for 20 years. (Chuckles) It’s kind of hard to stay in touch, but yeah.

I saw a clip of you on a panel with Eddie Vedder for the Howard Zinn thing. (“The People Speak,” a History Channel documentary based on Zinn’s book “The People’s History of the United States.”)

Yeah, they sort of debuted the movie down there, and Eddie was part of it. He’d done a song. And they were down in Atlanta, actually, working with (producer) Brendon (O’Brien) who is our old engineer as well. But I don’t know him that well. I know (Pearl Jam guitarist) Stone (Gossard) pretty well.

You’re gonna be up here for what’s being billed as kind of a farewell tour.

It’s just a tour before an indefinite break.

But it seems like the band is still at the top of its game. Why now?

You know, 20 years and we’re all much older and tired. It’s good for everyone to go kind of do their own thing for a while and just kind of take a break. Three of us just had kids. ... So it’s just a good time to stop for a little bit and be at home.

You also went on hiatus in 2002. In interviews you’ve said that was more like a blowing-up-the-band kind of thing.

When we split up back then, it was literally just like we’d had enough. It was 11 solid years of touring without a break. It was tour, album, tour, album, tour, album for 11 years. And it’s hard. It’s hard on you.

The reason that I think that kind of came to a head and happened is because we didn’t take breaks throughout that time. We just kept plowin’ through.

From what I’ve read, you’re packing a lot into these shows. What should we expect?

I’m not sure if it’s a theater or a smaller place. I’m not sure quite what the venue is.

It’s a casino.

So it’ll just be a two-hour set. For smaller places, we’ve just been doing a normal set because it’s hard to kind of switch back and forth.

You did the album “Croweology” with your big hits redone with acoustic arrangements. How much of the live show should we expect to be unplugged?

Well, for the two hour sets, we’re playing all electric. For the 31/2 hour shows, we’ve been doing two sets, with a … full acoustic set and then a full electric set. Logistically, that’s a little harder, and so that’s why in certain venues … we really can’t do it.

Looking back over your first 20 years on the road, what are some of the highlights?

Obviously, some of the bands we opened for on the first tour – you know, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Robert Plant – and then moving into playing with the Rolling Stones, playing with Bob Dylan. Chris would like playing with the Grateful Dead – before Jerry died, he’d like playing with those guys.

(We loved) touring with our favorite bands, touring with our heroes. You know, obviously, playing with Jimmy Page was amazing – Page, Plant. (It’s) those kinds of things that you can’t fathom while you’re in it. … Really, we got to play with all of our heroes, except for the Beatles. (Chuckles.)

Are there things you learned playing with people like the Stones and Jimmy Page?

If we did learn anything from Jimmy, just his passion. The way that he digs into music and the way that he still loves music isn’t necessarily a lesson. It’s just very inspirational to look at.

Of course, everyone’s seen the “Behind the Music” episodes and that sort of thing. What have you and your brother learned about how to work together and …

(Abrupt) Nothin’.

I mean, do you think you do it better at this stage now that you’re older and wiser?

Well, a little bit I guess.

But there’s still some of the sibling …

No, it just is what it is.

What kind of stuff are you looking forward to doing when you have some time off from the Crowes?

You know, just sort of stopping for a little while, trying to sort of regain a ground. Maybe makin’ solo records, producing. I’ve been producing and writing for other bands as well, things like that.

So who have you been producing and writing for?

There’s this band on Roadrunner I just worked with called Parlor Mob. I was writing some songs for them. These artists from Australia came in recently, and I wrote some songs with them. Things like that, you know.

Ernest Jasmin: 253-274-7389, ernest.jasmin@thenewstribune.com, blog.thenewstribune.com/tacomarockcity

Black Crowes

When: 8:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Emerald Queen Casino, 2024 E. 29th St., Tacoma

Tickets: $45 to $95

Information: 888-831-7655 or www. emeraldqueen.com

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