Photos by Toktam Tayefeh
BROOKLYN, NY — On a cold, late-autumn Sunday night, playing to a Brooklyn Steel crowd that was quite a few tickets shy of sold-out, the road-weary Chris Robinson Brotherhood could’ve been excused if it didn’t bring its A game. But the California psychedelic rock quintet played a joyous and dynamic show that was part hippie dance party, part space-cowboy hoedown, a reminder — or for newbies, a declaration — that the CRB is one of the most enjoyable live acts on the jam-band circuit.
Guitarist Neal Casal and keyboardist Adam MacDougall, two of the genre’s most potent soloists, were on fire all evening, starting with the jumpy opener, “Shore Power,” which was driven by MacDougall’s odd vintage synth sounds. The twangy “High Is Not The Top” was a great second-slot choice, and “The Chauffeur’s Daughter” opened up into a succinct jam, with Casal leading the way, and later, a darker and looser improvisation. “New Cannonball Rag” was another fun first-set tune, which flowed into some trippy but controlled improv. Strobe lights accompanied MacDougall’s wild ‘70s keyboard sounds before the CRB seamlessly landed back in the groove.
Robinson raved over gospel piano on “Beggar’s Moon”; Casal’s crystalline lead guitar soared over waves of keyboards during the easy-grooving “She Shares My Blanket”; and the well-executed “Ain’t It Hard But Fair” and “Behold The Seer” closed the first set, whetting the enthusiastic audience for the show’s second half.
The CRB kicked off set two with a short and sweet “Coming ‘Round The Mountain” before the jam-heavy portion of the show started with “Rare Birds” — Casal started the song on slide then played without it during a back-and-forth with MacDougall’s clavinet.
The proggy “Vibration and Light Suite” was a monster as usual, shifting from late-’70s Grateful Dead to hard-rock riffage, leading into the newish “Venus In Chrome.” During the latter, MacDougall, wearing a red Paul Simon T-shirt, played like Elton John on steroids, and after an instrumental foray, Casal strummed a big riff, pulled his fretting hand from the guitar neck and flashed a look at Robinson, signaling a move into an oceanic jam.
Covers of R&B singers Percy Mayfield’s “Loose Lips” and Eddie Floyd’s “Girl I Love You” brought some classic soul to the evening before another jammy CRB original, “Rosalee,” closed the second set. Casal played a short slide solo, then during the song’s slow-burning section, he picked out some Jerry Garcia-flavored country-rock lines. The song descended into a spooky, psychedelic swirl; Robinson sang, “Is the air getting thinner, or are we getting high?”
The pigtailed Robinson led the group back to the stage — decorated with an incense-spewing owl and a pot of flowers — for a perfect send-off: a warm and faithful version of the Rolling Stones’ “Sweet Virginia.”