Love 'em or hate 'em, but The Black Crowes are bound to go down in the history of rock and roll as one of the all time greats. Formed in the late 1980s the Black Crowes released their first studio album Shake Your Money Maker in 1990, and immediately made a splash on the scene with radio hits She Talk to Angels and the remake of an Otis Redding oldie, Hard to Handle. The debut went platinum five times over, and their second studio release The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion went double platinum, not only breaking the sophomore slump that a lot of musicians hit but certifying themselves as a band to be reckoned with.
But as time rolls on bands change lineups, and even between the first two albums the Crowes had some changes which continues throughout their illustrious career. Twelve years after their debut album set them a place in rock history, the Black Crowes went on an indefinite hiatus, leaving fans clamoring for more. However, in 2005 brothers Chris and Rich Robinson gathered together some of the early members of the Black Crowes and set to stage and played a series of shows rekindling band. As they played sold out shows across the nation, they ultimately ended up at the historic Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. The venue sets the stage for an amazing performance of twenty tracks spanning the career, sadly only nineteen of these songs made it to the CD and concert footage.
Starting out with a high powered electric set, the groups strips the music down midway through the nearly two-hour show and a more intimate acoustic set is played, followed again by a sweat inducing electric guitars and a great horn section to finish out the show. The Fillmore is filled to the rafters with an excellent crowd of devoted fans who sway to the music and dance to the tunes with front man Chris Robinson. The small venue makes for a very intimate experience for the audience and gives the camera operators a great set to work with to bring that experience to the home audience.
1. (Only) Halfway to Everywhere
2. Sting Me
3. No Speak No Slave
4. Soul Singing
5. Welcome To The Goodtimes
6. Jealous Again
7. Space Captain
8. My Morning Song
9. Sunday Night Buttermilk Waltz
10. Cursed Diamond
11. She Talks To Angels
12. Wiser Time
13. Non Fiction
14. Seeing Things
15. Hard To Handle
16. Let Me Share The Ride
17. Mellow Down Easy
19. The Night They Drove Ol' Dixie Down
The Black Crowes stint at The Fillmore was filmed in HD making the process of giving fans a pristine transfer quite painless. During the concert footage the detail in the shots is outstanding, reflections off guitars and even the wrap of the guitar strings is visible in this ultra crisp footage. Colors seem to pop from the screen making the lighting of the show really stand out; even the darker segments look fantastic in this 1.78:1 concert.
The way that the concert is shot is probably a better way to experience the show than actually being in the crowd, as the camera operators actually spend time shooting the performers rather than making quick pans to try and cover more ground than is necessary. The lighting throughout the concert footage is excellent with essentially no grain seeping into the picture.
During some of the extended jam sessions and between song the filmmakers through in some behind the scenes footage which all comes through in 4x3 and is very high in grain, and obviously intentional. While the change from the concert is welcome, the different styles and quality of the shots is quite jarring. Not to mention, it's during these jams where the musicians can actually flex their skills and it would have been nice to actually see them performing during these segments.
Three choices are yours when diving into the audio segment of Freak n Roll, and all three are good choices, but naturally one stands out above the rest. A Dolby Digital track pushing a bitrate of 448k, a DTS 5.1 track pushing 768k, and a 2-channel lossless PCM track at 1.5Mbps are all included. While the DTS track did pack much more punch than the Dolby track, especially in songs where the brass instruments are used extensively it was the PCM track which really caught my ear. The effect that only two channels of sound had rather than splicing the audio into 6 channels coupled with the lack of audio compression really made the track stand out. The strings, horns and Chris Robinson's voice all come through shockingly clear, and I'd wager that it is much clearer on the BD than it was in person.
While not particularly loaded in the extra features department, the disc contains a roughly fifteen minute reel of behind the scenes footage of the band touring San Francisco cavorting backstage at the Fillmore and jamming on their instruments. It's worth checking out once for the music, but otherwise a small piece of useless filler.
Seeing the original band back together for this show coupled with the fact that they play through nineteen excellent tracks that appeal to the dedicated Crowes fans as well as the casual with the requisite songs like Jealous Again and Hard to Handle. While chances are that you may only watch the actual concert footage once or twice, the audio presentation is good enough that you may just find yourself throwing this in the home theater while leaving your monitor off just to hear the tracks. Devoted Black Crowes fans who have yet to pick up this footage on DVD and have access to a Blu-Ray player should without question pick this up, casual fans may be better suited to get the audio only CD or skip this altogether.