Jackie Greene and The Crown Room at The Crystal Bay Casino are like that comfy pair of slippers that you slip on after a long day, exhale, and settle in for the evening.
Greene has made the venue on Tahoe’s North Shore a regular stop for enough years that there stands a half wall of artwork devoted to his visits for all to see as they enter. His latest foray delighted a loyal crowd of 500 enthusiastic Greene fans, as evidenced by the adoring shouts of “We love you Jackie” in between tunes.
The band focused on Greene’s original material, as it has consistently done on tour since a six-night residency earlier this year in Marin. I, for one, am glad to see the emphasis as I believe his own tunes stand on their own, and the sampling of albums from last night’s set list demonstrates the ample breadth of material.
“Now I Can See For Miles,” one of four cuts from the outstanding 2015 effort “Back To Birth,” jump started a show that saw strong, clean vocals throughout from Greene, the usual tight backing from Fitz Harris (drums/vocals) and Jon Cornell (bass), and the always solid Nathan Dale (guitar/vocals) playing the role of vital cohort to his charismatic bandleader. The up-tempo “I’m So Gone” got the dancers in the room going, and reflective blues ballad “Silver Lining” provided the first taste of slide guitar from the trademark Gibson SG occupying Greene’s shoulder. The band turned up the volume for a searing “Cold Black Devil” from 2006’s “American Myth” before turning on a dime, displaying touch and tenderness with “Giving Up The Ghost” cut “Shaken.”
Jackie Greene, at least instrumentally, is most associated with his work as a guitarist shredding on his own tunes and alongside the likes of Bob Weir and Chris Robinson. to name just two. My own feeling is that Greene may actually be a better songwriter and performer while coaxing the keys of an electric piano or Hammond B3. The set produced only a little taste of his prowess with “So Hard To Find My Way,” and the singalong favorite “Hallelujah.” Some sort of keyboard malfunction unfortunately cut the planned “Tell Me Mama, Tell Me Right,” which would have fit nicely in that spot.
For whatever reason, the next song on the original set list, “I Don’t Live In A Dream,” was also cut before resuming with the sardonic narrative of that super weird place to the south, “Hollywood.” Things then got a little avant-garde with Greene breaking out a Danelectro guitar and fiddling with an array of effect pedals and knobs at his feet for a psychedelic preamble that would eventually become a nice closing “Jackstraw,” once he traded with his guitar tech for a Les Paul. Regrettably, “Don’t Let Me Down” was tabbed to close from a transition and that too was cut, which is a shame as their cover of The Beatles tune is a fine one.
After a quick hop off stage, the band returned for a solid “Like A Ball And Chain” to wrap up the evening before Greene exited to resume his never before achieved conquest of having a winning night tangling with the Crystal Bay Casino slot machines. If he didn’t crack it on this trip, we look forward, as always, to the next time he comes back to try again.
Now I Can See For Miles
I’m So Gone, Silver Lining
Medicine, Light Up Your Window
When You’re Walking Away
Cold Black Devil
So Hard To Find My Way
Tell Me Mama, Tell Me Right (cut)
I Don’t Live in A Dream (cut)
Don’t Let Me Down (cut)
Like A Ball And Chain