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The Black Crowes playing Vegas one more time before break

The end of the road has him reflecting on the beginning of his travels.

It’s a Friday afternoon in November, but Steve Gorman is way back in March of 1990.

"I remember it like it was last week," The Black Crowes drummer says. "In the first week of our first tour ever we found ourselves in Vegas for the first time. It’s funny, because Vegas in 1990 looked like a small town compared to what it is right now. But at the time, it was still like, ‘Oh my God, we’re in Vegas.’ "

Tonight, The Black Crowes will play Vegas one more time before going on hiatus after a run of dates in San Francisco next week.

Gorman thinks that the band will be back.

Some day.

But he can’t be certain about it.

And so this last round of shows come freighted with 20 years of memories, which he’s been flipping through like a scrapbook whose pages are still being filled.

"I probably look back on that stuff a little more than some of the guys just because it’s more of my nature to," he says. "It hasn’t really been bittersweet. I’m sure by the time we get (to Vegas) that everyone will definitely be feeling it a little bit more. I’m sure every show will have a little bit more of a, ‘Oh man, this is coming to an end’ vibe."

Gorman sounds a little wistful as he speaks, though he knows the break is needed lest the Crowes become broken irrevocably.

"There’s been two different points in time in the past where we said, ‘Maybe after this year we take a year off,’ " he says. "We didn’t do it the first time in ’95, and boy, we really should have, because the band was at a great point, we loved what we were doing, but it was really fraying around the edges. The two hours onstage were great, and the other 22 were driving us all crazy, every day of the tour. Then we got off the road and went home for a few weeks and like we always did before, we went, ‘Oh, we’re fine, let’s just get back in the studio.’ Flash forward a year and a half later and the band pretty much disintegrated.

"We did the same thing in 2001," he continues, "and then the band really just disintegrated. At two different times we had this notion that we should go away, and then when we finally did, it was kind of too late. I don’t think any of us thought that we were going to put the pieces together."

But they did, having soldiered on for nearly another decade since then.

And those years have been productive.

Though their commercial luster has waned a bit, creatively speaking, the Crowes have been flying high of late.

Last August they released one of their best records yet, "Before The Frost … Until The Freeze," a flame spittin’, wholly invigorated double album recorded live that screams to life with gospel-style exhortations and Southern rock foot stomp along with the Crowes’ trademark electric blues.

It’s the sound of a band truly comfortable in its own skin, which most certainly hasn’t always been the case with this bunch, who’ve weathered more turbulence than a fleet of airliners.

"I think as a band there was a period of time where we resented our success because no one was happy," Gorman says. "We never talked about it in these terms, but looking back now, I can see five young men sitting on a bus all sort of bewildered, thinking, ‘Well, this isn’t what we wanted.’

"I found myself confused and disappointed a lot and I could never figure out why," he adds. "And one day it just dawned on me, ‘Oh wait a minute, I really did have a lot of preconceived notions, one of which was that everything would be great if you got success. If things take off and you’re successful and you’re selling records and you’re touring, what could possibly go wrong? Reality, you can push it away for a few minutes, but it’s like deferring taxes, man, that bill’s going to come in one day and it’s going to be bigger than you could imagine."

The Crowes too, got bigger than Gorman could have once imagined, selling more than 30 million records and taking their earthy, vintage sounding hip shake to the top of the charts.

They’ve always been an anachronism of sorts, a classic rock band in a contemporary setting.

But though they’ve long mined the past, Gorman’s convinced that the Crowes aren’t going to become a permanent part of it just yet.

"The band is at a place that I don’t think we’ve ever been before," Gorman says. "We are all really on the same page. It’s the most consistent, most cohesive band we’ve ever had. That said, to get to that point, it’s pretty exhausting. We have shows now where, five minutes before the gig, I’m thinking, ‘Man, there’s no vibe.’ Then we get onstage, and everything comes out and it’s great. And then five minutes after the show, everyone’s just dead again.

"We can just see the writing on the wall," he continues. "Nobody wants to repeat mistakes. Nobody wants to go through a really rough period. We’re all feeling a little burnt. We can always get it back together when everyone’s ready. There’s no reason to push this thing to the point where we kind of forget how special this is."

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.

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