Que the smoke as the house lights dim to black. Silhouettes make their way across stage to their assigned spots, and my heart races. No matter what event I’m at, this is always my favorite part of the show. Suddenly a singular guitar rhythm holds a single spotlight and the crowd goes completely silent. I see Adam step onto the stage in the dark, and as he grabs the mic and shakes out whatsoever is left over of himself to get into character, his spotlight comes on and the goosebumps begin.
“Step out the front door like a ghost into a fog where no one notices the contrast of white on white”. Ironically I’m watching through the viewfinder of my camera, and the darkness is so immense against the blue/white glare of light on him, he is simply a canvas of a black and white world. I think to brush my eyes, but I then realize the effect is meant to be. Like every 17 year old in 1993, The Counting Crows were a staple in my CD library with the release of “August and Everything After”. I wasn’t a huge fan of the band after this release, but I did play this album until I knew it backward and forward. Without a doubt, “Round Here” was my favorite single. 17 year olds are maybe the most complicated demographic, as they think they know who they are and what they want to be, but don’t really have a clue- or maybe not. At 17 all you really know is drowning in yourself and what your life is supposed to be out of high school, before college and the rest of life. For me, “August and Everything After” was the epitome of that time.
Tears form in my eyes and Adam steps up onto an amp right in front of me, towering like a 9 foot scarecrow of sorts. “She looks up at the building, says she’s thinking of jumping. She said she’s tired of life, she must be tired of somethin’…. round here she’s always on my mind”. The words echo through the darkened theater and he spreads his arms out, as if to fall. His head drops my way and for a second our eyes connect before he shuts them, staying in character and leading the arena into the plight of pain Maria faces in this moment. I don’t know why I’m crying. Whether it’s sentiment or pain, all I know is that in less than two minutes Adam has taken me and nearly 3,000 other fans into Maria’s world of infinite confusion, and we are there- invested, and suited up.
I’m allowed 3 songs to shoot, but midway through song 2 my cameras rest and I’m done. The highlight of the show, for me, has happened, and it can’t get any better. I walk side stage and watch the performance and fans as I make my recovery from the 17 year old lost in teenage ambition to the 40 year old in her body, who oddly not much has changed for aside from 20-something odd years of experience. Adam and the rest of the band commit. They sound fantastic, rejuvenate and fresh. The set list I’ve pulled is nothing close to what they’re performing, but I count 23 songs. By song 7, lines start to form at concession. “Mr. Jones” begins and the audience finds their inspiration again, for about 3 songs. Unfortunately, the Crows continue on with a series of not-so-hits and the audience is bored. People are starting to leave. The Crows don’t care. They are having a blast. Then just when we think the party is just for them, the stage fills with characters.
This tour actually began 23 years ago outside a club in LA. Rob Thomas, and unknown songwriter watched Counting Crows and after the show, invited lead singer Adam Duritz for a beer. That beer turned into a friendship that would last for decades, and eventually lead them on this 3 month US tour. You can see the bro-love onstage and off, and their joint talent fuels the air with excitement.
Despite a little crowd boredom in what may be a gratuitous catalogue-search on the Crows end, we feed on and go with it- if for nothing else than to watch Adam in full character. This is a man to be seen in person.
“Hangin’ Around” begins and our opening act, K. Phillips with his band, Rob Thomas and his entourage enter stage-right- including the incredible back-up singers. The party that commences is something to be seen. I recognize and make sure to soak in the moment. For my generation, I am watching two, maybe 3 of the most talented songwriters there have been collaborating in celebration. 5, no 6 songs into what feels like a block party, the house lights rise and what’s begun has ended as equally fast. Adam and Rob are friendly with fans and step down to shake hands, fist bump and make happy before waving their way off stage and onto the next city.
I’m left not wanting. Completely satisfied and feeling I’d have gotten my solid dollars worth of entertainment, my night is over. I’m wowed by parts of what I’ve seen and too tired to really breathe in all of what I’ve seen tonight. In bed, I have to make myself a nice playlist of the Crows, starting with “‘Round Here”, but I can’t seem to get it off repeat, or out of my mind.
For moderate fans or die hard fans, enjoy this show. Treat yourselves. Rob Thomas’ collaboration with Counting Crows is musical nirvana and truly a tour not to be missed.