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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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