The blues rockers – who replaced the extraordinary Mississippi All Stars ripper Luther Dickinson with the less impressive but more handsome Jackie Greene – drew from the awesome vistas engulfing Telluride’s Town Park stage to wow a rain-shedding throng.
The first set’s “Remedy,” with its throbbing, medicated blues is a solid contender for Colorado’s stoner anthem, but Greene’s slide on “Descending” stirred the amply lubed crowd.
Greene works best with a glass finger. His improvisation – despite stints as a friend of Phil Lesh – falls short. Guitarist Rich Robinson actually took over lead duties in “Thorn in my Pride” with a blistering jam that channeled Keith Richards at his best and easily ranked as the highlight jam of the night. The gangly, galloping Chris Robinson frolicked under his brother’s heat, joining on a strong harp solo that ended with the shaggy frontman hurling his harmonica into the eager crowd.
A half moon crept up the horizon over the Bear Creek drainage as the Black Crowes stretched a fun “She Talks to Angels” with Greene’s twangy mandolin. The crowd – taking advantage of the steady flow of Sierra Nevada brews – celebrated the sound and lack of rain with a fiery, if not muddy, fervor.
The covers especially fired up the swamp-stompers. Rich’s smooth Lou Reed-vocals on Velvet Undergound’s “Oh Sweet Nuthin’” were gorgeous but also elevated the absence of Dickinson, who could weave deep grooves into Rich’s sparse rhythms. The late night “Hush” – popularized by Deep Purple but composed by Joe South – and the band’s signature rendition of Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle” supercharged the crowd as it spilled into a welcoming downtown Telluride.
The festival’s notorious late-night scene is no longer a secret or even a sideshow. With the Sheridan Opera House, Fly Me To The Moon Saloon and less-colorful Telluride Conference Center hosting gigs with Anders Osbourne, the New Mastersounds, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Karl Denson, the after-fest shows will likely highlight the most smoking moments of the weekend.
Jason Blevins is a strange dancer, but that has never stopped him.
Evan Semón is a Denver freelance writer and photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. See more of his work.