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scene

Counting Crows disappoint with ’Wonderland’ tour

| Monday, September 14, 2015

CountingCrows_Scene_WebEric Richelsen | The Observer

Counting Crows has been with me for a long time. With frontman Adam Duritz’s genuine vulnerability sweetened by danceable rock melodies, reminiscent of guys like Dylan and Petty, I inevitably got hooked pretty early on. Yet, 90s alternative pop-rock isn’t every 12 year old’s forte, so finding friends growing up with similar tastes proved to be difficult. Enter my Aunt Mary: early on we bonded over our taste in music and we have always had it on the bucket list to see the Crows live. This past weekend, we fulfilled my fanboy wishes with Counting Crows’ Chicago stop on their “Somewhere Under Wonderland” tour.

The concert took place at the FirstMerit Bank Pavilion situated on Northerly Island, a small man-made peninsula surrounded by Lake Michigan. While a peninsula with an outdoor stage proved to be a surreal spot to groove, it was bit tricky to access. While we jogged our way up seemingly endless paths and bridges, we ended up missing most of the first act, New York rockers Hollis Brown. As the sun began to set and Hollis Brown jammed their last blues-infused folk rock song, I began to wish I were a little better with directions.

Next up was D.C.’s soulful blues outfit Citizen Cope. Transitioning from blues to folk, rock, hip hop and even jazz, Citizen Cope was a treat for the ears, just not the eyes — or the heart, for that matter. Frontman Clarence Greenwood’s dismal stage presence, or lack thereof, proved draining. While strong moments came with their hits — namely “Let the Drummer Kick” and, my personal favorite, “Son’s Gonna Rise” — Citizen Cope left me feeling like I had just lost a beloved pet turtle. I needed Counting Crows to lift me from my funk. Unfortunately, disappointment seemed to be the theme for the show.

Beginning the set with “Elvis Went To Hollywood” — a track off “Somewhere Under Wonderland,” the band’s latest album — it was clear from the get-go that Counting Crows weren’t going to focus on the past. While the band did play classics like “Mr. Jones,” “Big Yellow Taxi” and “Accidentally in Love,” Duritz chose to sing alternate versions lacking the soul and emotion of the originals, an extremely unsatisfying endeavor. And while “Somewhere Under Wonderland” showcases the artistry and experience the band has acquired after all these years, it is nowhere near as wholesome. The charm of past albums like “August and Everything After” and “Hard Candy” is replaced with overproduction and listless lyricism.

Although there were impressive moments, like “A Long December,” during which Duritz sang while gracefully caressing a grand piano center stage, such moments were fleeting. Classics like “Omaha,” “Rain King” and closer “Holiday in Spain” only hinted at what the tracks used to represent. Musically, the night was strong, encompassing a number of arrangements and utilizing a number of different musicians, but Duritz seemed to only be going through the motions, not delving deep into the songs’ sentiments.

Yet, there certainly is a silver lining; after years of struggling with emotional and psychological disorders, Duritz is clearly at a good spot in his life. While his music may lack the sensitivity that drew me in, I wouldn’t be a sincere fan if I weren’t happy for him. If anything, that’s what’s true about life: time changes the way we approach our emotions and relationships. Duritz is no longer the brooding troubled poet of the mid-90s, just as I am no longer the 12-year-old jamming to “American Girls” on my iPod shuffle, and I can certainly be happy about that.

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About Adam Ramos

Adam is studying international economics in the class of 2018. He hails from beautiful New Jersey and says "draw" instead of "drawer."

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  • Crows Fan

    I am wondering if we were at the same Counting Crows show this weekend in Chicago? This was my 8th show of the tour and it was truly one of the best I have seen. Obviously, you are very unfamiliar with Counting Crows and their live performances. The band has never sang songs as they were recorded on CD’s. They are known for their “alternative” lyrics and that has been what has distinguished them from other life acts. I find it very frustrating when a critic is negative about something they are well known for and acclaimed. In addition, Somewhere Underwonderland has received critical praise for his lyrics, and production and yet you state one of there least successful albums “Hard Candy” as having more charm? I knew you were a casual fan when the hightlight of the show for you was “A Long Decemember” and you stated that you use to jam to “American Girls” . Saturday night, Counting Crows played three songs that rarely get played live – Accidentally In Love, Come Around and Annabegins. For the diehard fan, Saturday’s show was EPIC to say the least.

  • Manny

    wow, hopefully nobody who actually likes or knows a thing about music reads this review and is turned away from going to one of their concerts. clearly you are not well-versed in the concept of a live performance. if you want to hear a song just like the album version, how about LISTENING TO THE ALBUM VERSION? counting crows are one of the top live bands out there today, their musicianship is unmatched. it’s also a shame that your review is full of false information too– one of your main points was that they are “not about the past” because the show opened with “elvis went to hollywood.” unless you totally MISSED the first song, they opened with “Anna Begins” straight off of their FIRST ALBUM from 1993. i also cannot believe you claimed “somewhere under wonderland” is ‘over-produced’ and full of unenthusiastic lyrics. have you even listened to the CD? overproduced could not be further from the word to describe it. “hard candy” was considered “over produced” when it came out. Somewhere Under Wonderland is nowhere near that.. it is the rawest album the band has produced, with very little effects or anything to alter their sound. you sir are nuts.

  • Ted

    Maybe when you grow up you will understand. You are still a child.

  • alwaystheindian

    I don’t think you’re very familiar with the Counting Crows live work? They treat their songs as living beings. They constantly change the composition and lyrics when performing them live. Don’t believe me? Look at your Long December CD single from the 90’s, the B-Side is a 15 minute re-arrangement of Murder Of One. That is what they have always done and most fans would be disappointed if they jammed to a live Counting Crows album, bought a ticket and went to a concert that that sounded like their studio album.

    I’ve always found it odd that people don’t like for bands to play new music. Are these people fans of the band or of their own childhood memories? If they are fans of the band’s output, then wouldn’t they crave new output?

    As for the new songs, I love them. The lyrics for Scarecrow are phenomenal!

    I’d rather hear them perform a rarity like Good Luck or The Greening of America than to hear an exact replay of a song I already own and love.

    I guess it’s not for everyone, but the things you criticized are the things they have previously been praised for.