- The Washington Times - Monday, September 18, 2006

Go right ahead and call me a cheeseball: I saw the Bruce Springsteen tribute act Mike Ryan & American Dream Friday night at the State Theater in Falls Church, and I had a blast.

I’ve seen one other tribute band (a Rolling Stones act called the Blushing Brides), and had an equally good time. There’s something empty, if not downright creepy, about one making one’s living this way. But on the consumption end, I couldn’t care less. I’m no purist and want only to hear the songs.

That said, Ryan and his E Street wannabes put in a pretty tremendous effort to make the music sound good. If you doubt me, see them doing the complicated epic “Jungleland” here (caveat: you’ll need high bandwidth).

Okay, still reading?

Good.

Last night’s outing (yes, I need to re-up my domestic hall pass) was the Black Crowes, who are sporting a new lineup with lead guitarist Paul Stacey and keyboardist Rob Clores. Plus there was recently-separated-from-Kate-Hudson singer Chris Robinson (he thanked everyone for their support; you’re welcome!).

I’ve seen the Crowes, oh, about 15 times since 1992, and there’s still no better American band than they. What I’ve loved about them is that they have a sense of jam-band adventurousness and, somehow, manage to sound amazingly tight and well-rehearsed (this hasn’t uniformly always been the case throughout their tumultuous 16 years, it’s true).

No two shows are ever the same, which is a clich the Crowes happen to lend real meaning. And for the last 10 years or so, they’ve consistently spruced up playlists with interesting cover tunes. Last night saw them do Joe Cocker’s “Give Peace a Chance,” Gene Clark’s “Polly,” Manassas-era Stephen Still’s “Song of Love,” Pink Floyd’s “Fearless” and the Beatles’ “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.”

They’re not the same players, but they have the same great taste.

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