Counting Crows – Civic Theatre

DSC_3791Two years ago the Counting Crows were forced to cancel shows in Wellington and Auckland at the very last minute due to lead singer Adam Duritz’s health. Fans who turned up to see them in Wellington were particularly peeved as they were notified of the cancellation just minutes before the show was to start. But all seems to be forgiven at Duritz and company performed what can only be described as a triumphant return at Auckland’s Civic Theatre on this prematurely-chilly Tuesday night.

The band came out with guns blazing, serving up one of their most popular tunes, Round Here, from their 1993 debut album August And Everything After, straight off the mark.

There were no problems with Adam’s voice tonight as he led the 7-piece band through an extended version of the song, reaching an incredibly high emotional pitch very early in the evening.

Anything after that could have been a let-down. But there was more where that came from.

The band’s three guitarists…David Bryson, David “Immy” Immergluck and Dan Vickrey, lined up on stage to deliver Scarecrow, from the band’s most excellent 2014 album, Somewhere Under Wonderland.

This was followed by a track from This Desert Life, St. Robinson In His Cadillac Dream, which found keyboard player Charlie Gillingham taking a charging organ solo that reminded me of The Band’s Garth Hudson. Indeed, Duritz was wearing a Last Waltz T-shirt, along with his trademark dreadlocks and a pair of black spectacles. They threw in a bit of Tommy James’ Crimson And Clover at the end for good measure.

One can’t help be struck by the passion and emotional intensity both in Duritz’s voice and his delivery as he sings songs like Elvis Went To Hollywood as he name checks various iconic American places and people.

Counting Crows songs often sound like a travelogue…this is a band that’s been on the road for over twenty years and their widescreen vision of the world is reflected in their music.

Another early highlight was Mr Jones, possibly the band’s most recognized tune and one most acts would save as a show-closer. The tune had everyone on their feet at the grand old Civic.

There were slower, quieter numbers too. Colorblind found bass player Millard Powers playing the intro on piano while Gillingham moved over to pedal steel. Duritz’s voice is even more appealing on these ballads. He has a vocal quality that seems to penetrate directly to the soul.

A cover of Teenage Fanclub’s Start Again gave the band the opportunity to show off their vocal chops with everyone, including drummer Jim Bogios, chiming in on harmonies.

The other notable cover was a delightfully twangy rendition of Gram Parsons’ Return Of Grievous Angel, with a good portion of the enthusiastic crowd singing along.

This is a band that has been together for some time…the current line-up has gelled beautifully over the past decade or so and they clearly love playing together.

Guitarist Vickrey whipped out his banjo for the lovely Washington Square and “Immy” let rip with a tasty solo or two as well. Gillingham came out from behind his keyboards to prowl the front of the stage with his accordion strapped on during Omaha, another chestnut from August And Everything After.

Things drew to a joyous close as A Long December, with Duritz on piano, segued into Hanginaround.

The band returned to perform Palisades Park, the 8-minute tour de force that opens Somewhere In Wonderland and then it was Rain King and “Our lullaby to you”, Holiday In Spain.

During the evening Duritz could be seen taking photos with his phone. He explained at one point that he had friends from Auckland that now live in New York and he was sending them pix from the show as it happened. He also apologized for getting sick and cancelling two years ago and promised as he left the stage for the last time, that he and his band would be back soon.

Judging from the reaction of the crowd at the Civic, all had been forgiven.

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Michael Flynn:

Counting Crows set list:

  1. Round Here
  2. Scarecrow
  3. St Robinson In His Cadillac Dream
  4. Elvis Went To Hollywood
  5. Mr Jones
  6. Colorblind
  7. Start Again
  8. Omaha
  9. Possibility Days
  10. Daylight Fading
  11. Cover Up The Sun
  12. Miami
  13. God Of Ocean Tides
  14. Le Ballet D’Or
  15. Washington Square
  16. Return Of The Grievous Angel
  17. Earthquake Driver
  18. A Long December
  19. Hanginaround
  20. Palisades Park
  21. Rain King
  22. Holiday In Spain