After more than 20 years together, the three principal members of The Black Crowes — brothers Chris and Rich Robinson and Steve Gorman — still don’t really get along.
“We don’t agree on much,” said Gorman, the band’s longtime drummer, from his home in Nashville. “We often don’t see eye to eye with each other, and we’re at each other’s throats a lot of the time.”
Through both high points (their unexpected breakthrough success with debut album “Shake Your Money Maker”) and low (a four-year hiatus from 2001 to 2005 that saw the brief departure of Gorman entirely), a single-minded determination to be a great band has kept the three coming back to each other.
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“We were maniacally possessed with the idea of becoming a real band,” Gorman said. “After we did get on the road, when the first record took off, we were never the band that went out and looked for the party, like, ‘Where are the beautiful people?’ We didn’t want to hang out with famous actors — we were the guys sitting in the dressing room or on the bus, listening to live Zeppelin and Little Feat bootlegs, obsessing over these great live bands and how we were gonna get there.”
A tour then a break
The band — which since 2008 has consisted of vocalist Chris, guitarist Rich, Gorman, bassist Sven Pipien, guitarist Luther Dickson and keyboardist Adam MacDougall — are in the midst of what might be their largest tour yet, as far as the set list is concerned. “Say Goodnight to the Bad Guys” began in early August and continues through December. After a weeklong break, the Northeast leg will kick off at The Palace Theatre on Friday night.
The tour’s title is fitting, as its end will mark the beginning of a second indefinite hiatus for the group. The band has been on the road for six straight years since reuniting in 2005, and, with three members recently becoming fathers, the group is ready for a break.
“When we do come back, everyone will have a fresh head of steam,” Gorman said. “And the 20-years thing seemed like a great time to put a bow on it.”
At most stops, the band has been performing two 90-minute sets — one entirely acoustic, in celebration of the double-disc “Croweology” album released in August and featuring acoustic re-recordings of 20 classic Crowes songs, and one electric. Along with celebrating the 20th anniversary of “Shake Your Money Maker,” the tour and the album are both connected to the band’s recent work, both live and on record with 2009’s “Before the Frost . . . Until the Freeze.”
“Over the last few years, we’ve done a handful of acoustic shows, and a big part of the album we did in 2009 was acoustic stuff,” Gorman said. “We’ve always done a lot of acoustic music, but we had never presented it so much live. When we were thinking about, how do we acknowledge and celebrate being around for 20 years, we decided to record an album with that acoustic template, so it was a natural extension of that.”
Best of both worlds
After tossing around the idea of doing an entirely acoustic tour, the band decided to give audiences the best of both worlds, which also allowed the group to stretch out and play a much longer show.
“Anytime we can do something that changes it up, it always makes it more compelling, even just visually,” Gorman said. “It starts out with a lot of guys sitting down, and we all play a lot of different instruments — I move around a lot and play a lot of different percussion instruments, and we have another percussion player on the road who, sometimes if I’m out front, he’ll be back on drums. And then it’s very different when we come out for the second set, and the band is where the band is, and we all just blow the back of the room off with volume.”
From night to night, the band will often play the same song both in a stripped-down acoustic setting and in the full rock band format, although the group doesn’t play the same song twice on any given night. “We wouldn’t ask somebody to sit through the same song twice — they might like it, but I don’t think we would,” Gorman said.
But acoustic doesn’t mean soft for The Black Crowes — “Croweology” is just as much of a raw classic rock album as the rest of the group’s ’70s-tinged records.
“It’s all up-tempo rock — there’s a lot of movement on the record,” Gorman said. “This is not a midtempo, acoustic, dreary-fest at all. Throughout rock history, there’s always been a lot of really exciting acoustic rock music. The drum sounds on this record are as big as any Black Crowes record in the past.”
The album was recorded live in-studio, continuing the process used on the band’s 2008 comeback album “Warpaint” and “Before the Frost . . . After the Freeze.” The latter album took the live approach to the next logical step, with two discs’ worth of all-new material recorded before an audience at Levon Helm’s Woodstock studio.
A current look back
“Croweology” finds the band back in the studio with only minimal overdubs. The band was mostly concerned with capturing a different feel from the original recordings found on the band’s past studio albums — which wasn’t too difficult considering the years that have passed.
“The songs are 20 years old, or 18, 14, 4 years old, but they were all recorded at a time that we’ve moved on from greatly,” Gorman said. “We’re not going to recapture that mood or thought, and I think we’d be in trouble if we could — that would speak to the songs not being authentic at the time we recorded them, and to us not growing up. But it’s a neat record — it’s a current look back, if that makes sense. These are still our tunes, and this is how we’re doing them right now.”
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