The Black Crowes have been a wildly unoriginal band from the get-go, but on their last two albums, Amorica and Three Snakes and One Charm, they turned into something far worse. They got boring, sluggish, each new meandering jam ending as directionlessly as it started. The subsequent departure of bassist Johnny Colt and guitarist Marc Ford seemed to seal their underwhelming fate. But the Crowes have pulled a rabbit out of their floppy hats with the new By Your Side (American). They sound utterly rejuvenated, attacking solid, relatively concise tunes with a newfound spunk and focus. Front man Chris Robinson is still infatuated with Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart (the title track sounds like an outtake from Exile on Main Street, and he even cribs a line from Rod the Mod's 1977 hit "You're in My Heart" on "Only a Fool"), but the band's southern-fried rock 'n' roll has a swing to it that's woefully lacking in most contemporary rock. There are a few self-indulgent duds--Dixieland horns help sink the already waterlogged "Welcome to the Goodtimes"--but if you're jonesing for some old-time shit, they can give you the shot. And they're a lot cheaper than the Rolling Stones. Sunday, 7:30 PM, Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence; 312-666-6667 or 312-559-1212. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Joseph Astor.