Review by Justin Burkhardt
I hate to admit it, but until last night I’ve never seen the Counting Crows in concert. I’ve always enjoyed them; in fact in my lifetime I’ve purchased four of their CDs (You see kids, CDs were…). The reason I’ve never seen the Crows up until this point was because of mixed reviews. Many of the people I know that have seen them have either said they were really good or their performances were kind of lazy. I’m glad to say that their 21 song, nearly two-hour set at the Sands Event Center on Sunday night was worth the wait.
Frontman Adam Duritz, sporting a jet black David Bowie shirt that matched his trademark jet black dreadlocks, led his 6-piece band through some of their biggest hits, a lot of their newer material, and some deeper cuts. The Crows performed six songs off of their recent album “Somewhere Under Wonderland”. The show opened with a deeper cut, “Time and Time Again”. My favorite of their new songs was “Cover up the Sun” which they played around the middle of the show. Their deepest cut of the night was “Monkey,” which Duritz noted that they hadn’t played in awhile. You could see that, as a band, they hadn’t played it in a while as it was their weakest of the night and it didn’t resonate well with the audience.
But there wasn’t much else that didn’t work for the Crows throughout the night. The musicians were on point all night long. Multi-instrumentalists Charlie Gillingham and David Immergluck showed off how talented they were throughout the show. Gillingham played the piano, guitar, and accordion (especially well during “A Long December”), while Immergluck played the guitar, mandolin (where he shined on the song “Omaha”), and pedal steel guitar. It may sound funny to say the band itself was one of the highlights of the show, but they made every single song played at the show enjoyable, even the ones the audience may have not been familiar with or even necessarily wanted to hear.
Duritz, who spoke sparsely at first, not saying hello until about 40 minutes into the concert, said at one point during the show “We’ll get to the songs you want to hear, as long as they’re the ones we want to play.” So what about the songs most people wanted to hear? The third song of the night was their hit “Mr. Jones”. The song was sung a bit differently, with the fans singing most of the chorus, and while I’m sure it may have bothered some, it was still nice to hear it. During “A Long December,” Duritz sat at the piano for a slower and more drawn out version that sounded incredible. The emphasis and emotion he also put into “Goodnight Elisabeth” was fantastic. They were two of my favorite songs of the night. Other highlights included the band playing the Grateful Dead cover “Friend of the Devil,” as well as “Hanginaround,” “Big Yellow Taxi,” and “Rain King” (played during their encore).
The Counting Crows are one of those bands that have been around for so long that when you see them live you may not get to hear all the songs you want to hear. I for one didn’t get to hear my favorite song of theirs, “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby”, while I’m sure others wanted to hear their Academy Award-nominated hit from the Shrek movie, “Accidentally in Love.” This is why it was nice to hear all of the hits we did tonight, regardless of the changes to how they were performed, because the next time you see them, the setlist will change.
Before the show Gillingham spoke to the audience about the Counting Crows’ Greybird Foundation, a non-profit group (which is worth checking out by the way) started by the band and immigration policies. After the show ended, Duritz again spoke about the foundation noting that while some people may not care about national politics, local issues are important. The band allowed two local groups, a local wildlife conservatory, and a local HIV/AIDs group, set up tables at the show. Politics aside, it was a nice gesture and more bands should take a lesson from the Crows in this regard.
There was really only one thing that prevented me from saying this concert was great. Opener Citizen Cope really just didn’t fit the show. Cope is most famous for his song “Let the Drummer Kick”. Bluntly put, he is a very weak guitar player who put on a boring set. All the songs drowned into each other and the set was filled with absolutely zero energy. Cope is a much better fit opening up for someone like Jack Johnson, or playing in a café setting. Because this opener took out a lot of excitement I had before the Crows started, I’ll say the show was a very, very good concert with a band that I’m glad I was finally able to see. As the show ended Adam Duritz lead the audience in a sing-a-long of the Mamas and the Papas “California Dreaming”. When he ended he noted that they would definitely be back to play a show again. I hope this is holds true, and if it does I will be there, and so should you!