Counting Crows at Bayou Music Center, 7/29/2014
Counting Crows, Toad the Wet Sprocket
Photos by Francisco Montes
Bayou Music Center
July 29, 2014
It would be easy to assume that a Counting Crows concert featuring Toad the Wet Sprocket would be a nostalgia-laden '90s throwback showcase, but that would be highly inaccurate. There certainly was some pre-millennial love in the air Tuesday night, but the Crows did not come to remind Houstonians that they were a great band two decades ago. They came to remind us that they are a great band, period.
Back in 1993, when his dreadlocks and fame were both considerably smaller, Crows lead singer Adam Duritz told the world (and his pal Mr. Jones) that he wanted to be Bob Dylan. That statement was seemingly based on the desire to write deeply meaningful lyrics that connect with audiences; in this case, Duritz and the Crows have succeeded.
Dylan rarely plays his best-known songs in concert, and the Crows did not play "Mr. Jones" Tuesday. They simply didn't have to, as Bayou Music Center's audience was completely invested in the band's performance, top to bottom.
Instead of greeting the crowd when they began, the Crows opened with the surprising choice of megahit "Round Here." While most bands opt for a high-energy, "get on your feet and let's start the party" opener, "Round Here" is a slow song that would typically get tucked away mid-concert. Tuesday, the crowd was treated to a unique version that intertwined with the new song "Palisades Park" (rife with 1960s Factory references, another Dylan connection), and infused with a spoken-word poetry vibe. The effect was almost enrapturing.
The Rain King
Somehow this version made the band's music seem like it has aged in reverse; it sounded newer and fresher than it did even when it was released. The band managed to take a song that means so much to its audience and reinvent it into something totally new, without alienating the fanbase that made them famous. This is what the audience was given all night: new music by Counting Crows, which included their old music.
Duritz himself is in his own right a precursor to many of today's singer-songwriters; several songs directly recalled Conor Oberst's storytelling style, with the more melodic sensibilities of an Ed Sheeran. The diverse set list presented an indecipherable difference between older classics like "Omaha" (including an amazing accordion solo) to new songs like "Scarecrow," a Neil Young-esque track from upcoming LP Somewhere Under Wonderland. Another new one, "God of Ocean Tides," sounded as if it could have been plucked off any of the band's early albums, but not in a tired way at all.
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