The Black Crowes at DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, MI

The Black Crowes ended a long winter without music with an authentic rock and roll extravaganza at DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston.

DTE could power the city of Detroit with the energy radiating from fans who have come to celebrate the return of live music with The Black Crowes. Walking through the parking lot as fans gathered in small pre-game groups, you could feel the elation in the air. We were cut off from the communal fountain of rock. The Black Crowes are here to quench our thirst.

Opening up this evening’s celebration of rock and roll is Dirty Honey. Hailing from Los Angeles, the band is Marc Labelle (vocals), Corey Coverstone (drums), John Notto (guitar), and Justin Smolian (bass). To say these guys are high energy is an understatement. There can be no mistake they are here to rock out with their, well you get the idea.

Ripping into “Gypsy” from the self-titled debut album, Dirty Honey slammed the pedal down and did not let up. The compelling beat from Coverstone and Smolian kept the growing crowd moving to “The Wire” and “Tied Up” of their smoking self-titled album. The dynamic power of LaBelle’s voice combined with Notto’s guitar tone is pure fire. Dirty Honey is a fine way to stoke the flame for tonight’s festivities.

The last major tour by The Black Crowes ended in 2015. Then the pandemic put a serious hurt on live music. After such a long time, it feels so very satisfying to have The Black Crowes give us the remedy of rock and roll tonight. Joining the founding brothers Chris (vocals) and Rich Robinson (guitar) are Sven Pipien (bass – Black Crowes and Magpie Salute), Joel Robinow (keyboards – Howling Rain and Once & Future), Brian Griffin (drums – too many awesome contributions to list), Isaiah Mitchell (guitar – Earthless), and backup singers Mackenzie Adams and Leslie Grant.

The stage is decked out to resemble a bar, one where you can imagine The Black Crowes cut their teeth. A jukebox on the left side of the stage starts playing Elmore James’ “Shake Your Money Maker.” Band members roll out of the bar area and Rich Robinson hits the opening chords to “Twice As Hard.” Brother Chris with parasol in hand begins to sing. The beginning of a glorious rock and roll adventure in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Shake Your Money Maker album is underway.

The first part of the set features Shake Your Money Maker in its entirety. This album is so full of soulful rock. The songs age well and sound incredible tonight. Veteran Sven Pipien and Brian Griffin sound like they have been playing together for years. They hit the pocket on each song with ease and perfection.

The Crowes drew aces in snagging Isaiah Mitchell to ride shotgun with Rich. Both Rich and Isaiah are masters of their craft and brilliantly bring the music alive. Isaiah adds passion and grace with his solos, especially on “Struttin Blues” and “Sometimes Salvation”. When they trade licks on “Wiser Times”, it’s sweet magic that raises the hairs on your arms.

In his finest rock and roll swagger (ala Jagger), Chris takes us on a ride. Dare we say, Chris’s voice has never sounded better. He is electric. He drew each of us in to sing with him on “Hard To Handle,” “Jealous Again,” and “She Talks To Angels.” Chris proves he’s more than a one-trick pony with blazing harp playing on “Thorn In My Pride” and “Sting Me.”

Speaking of blazing, keyboardist Joel Robinow jumped into the mix on “Thorn In My Pride.” His playing gave the night a rock and roll revival feel. The soul of the music was elevated by the backing vocals of Mackenzie Adams and Leslie Grant. Their voices were soaring with the gospel of rock.

The Black Crowes wrap up this spectacular night of music with “Remedy.” This is a true barn burner. After a short side stage break, The Black Crowes come back for a rousing rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll” to send us out flying high. It may only be rock and roll, but the Black Crowes give us a night of bliss that we have all very much missed.

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About Chuck Marshall 45 Articles
Chuck loves music. If it is powerful and played with conviction, that is even better. In a past life, Chuck enjoyed thrashing on the stage in a Michigan metal band (Battalion). Now he prefers to use his imagery and words to capture the essence of a concert or an album. See and feel the music with Chuck; you’ll be glad you did.