Concert: Counting Crows in Holyoke, MA
Counting Crows have evolved over the past half-dozen tours from performing a traditional headliner set to having members -- most frequently frontman Adam Duritz -- popping in to jam with their opening acts. On their most recent couple of outings, further morphing has fully integrated some or all of the Crows personnel into the opening acts for an ebbing and flowing showcase of nonstop music from everyone involved.
After a successful go at that live amalgamation formula last year, Counting Crows again tapped San Diego based Augustana, and then flava'd up the mix with the curious but palatable support of Brooklyn rapper NOTAR (Mike Notar), one of the few artists on Duritz's new Tyrannosaurus Records (T-Recs) label. Dubbing their 2010 outing the Traveling Circus & Medicine Show, Counting Crows' tour rolled into Southern Massachusetts' newest outdoor venue, Mountain Park in Holyoke, on Wednesday (7/21).
Surrounded by the fresh, rain-scrubbed evening air, swaying pine trees and adoring fans, the sometimes dozen-strong ensemble rocked the venue with anticipated hits, a couple of nice surprises, and a handful of exceptionally well-coordinated and articulately orchestrated covers.
The show opened on a high note as every performer on the bill crowded onto the stage for a rousing stab at Van Morrison's "Caravan." Similar gang delivery ensued at strategic points in both sets, with an equally blistering "Delta Lady" and a nearly reverent, gospel feeling "Just Like a Woman" that spotlighted Augustana's Dan Layus layering tasty guitar work under stellar vocals.
Of course, Augustana kept its number-one crowd-pleaser, "Boston," in the set, but another number from the group's latest project, "Fire Either Way, I'll Break Your Heart Someday," was by far that band's best performance of the evening .
Counting Crows issued representative doses from their entire catalog, with nice turns on "Holiday In Spain" and "Richard Manuel Is Dead." A particularly memorable treatment of "A Long December" brought back most of the other performers to "La-La-La" along with the 1,500-strong backing singers out in the audience.
Obliged to scoop into their seminal "August and Everything After" album as well, Counting Crows launched a spot-on "Omaha" early in the first set, returning to fetch "Mr Jones," and a poorly-timed "Raining In Baltimore" for during set two.
The latter song, sandwiched between up-tempo numbers near the second set's 80-minute mark, only invited disruptive traffic heading for the exits, or any conversation in earshot to completely overlap what sounded like some of Duritz's best piano work and vocals of the show.
"Hanginaround" snapped the remaining fans back into dance mode, however, with everyone from grandparents to toddlers bobbing to the beat and infectious guitar hooks courtesy of Dan Vickrey.
Props to David Immergluck, who shined throughout the show as well. From his blistering dual guitar shootout with Vickrey to just about every time he donned his jangling mandolin or his bottle-neck slide to nasty things up a bit, the former Camper Van Beethoven axe-man proved as capable yet underrated as a few other right-hand men -- Heartbreaker Mike Campbell comes to mind.
The second set wrapped with the evening's final cover, "With a Little Help From My Friends." Layus injected some very effective counterpoint "You Can't Always Get What You Want," which Duritz seemed to totally groove on as he beamed from behind an upright piano at center stage.
Going back to their debut, a marathon version of "Rain King" closed out the night as all the musicians ran, not walked, to their buses for the quick trip down from the foothills of the Berkshires to the Traveling Circus' next stop -- the beaches of Cape Cod.
30 - Cohasset, MA - South Shore Music Circus
31 - Atlantic City, NJ - Borgata
2 - Saratoga Springs, NY - Saratoga Performing Arts Center
4 - Westbury, NY - Capital One Bank Theatre at Westbury
6 - Bethlehem, PA - Musikfest at Sands Riverplace
7 - Portsmouth, VA - Ntelos Pavilion
9 - Vienna, VA - Wolf Trap
11 - Hampton Beach, NH - Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom
13 - Mashantucket, CT - MGM at Foxwoods Casino
14 - Hyannis, MA - Cape Cod Melody Tent
17, 18 - Montclair, NJ - Wellmont Theatre
21 - Highland Park, IL - Ravinia Festival
23 - Council Bluffs, IA - Mid America Center
24 - Highland Park, IL - Ravinia Festival