Counting Crows … in Montreal

No … Hootie was not there …

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It is easy to mix up bands from the past. Groups who – at one time in music history; ruled the airwaves.The Counting Crows were … one of ‘those’ bands.

At Metropolis on May 15th in Montreal, it was easy to forget.

Fourteen years had passed since Adam Duritz and company graced La Ville de Montreal with a mix of soul, R and B, Funk, Americana and Rock n Roll. Fourteen years is enough time for a ‘Crows’ ‘Love Child’ to grow up and commence listening to Kanye West rant about …er ..guys like The Counting Crows.

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It took three songs for the next-to-capacity crowd at Metropolis to realize for sure – The Counting Crows were real and present. 

Mr. Jones from 1983’s August and Everything After album awoke the senses and just like that – gas prices were affordable again. Music and tunes like ‘Jones’ can do that. Transcend people to places and times when things were happier. Imaginary or not – judging by the reaction to the song Mr. Jones; 1983 was a very happy time for everyone present.

Adam has put on a couple of pounds. It’s ‘normal’ as the soulful singer (and Van Morrison protege) with dreads larger than’ Le Gesu’ grows past middle age. At fifty ( and counting?), Duritz is well approaching the age of his idol as well. It’s also ‘normal’ for guitarist (since 1991) David Bryson to look like a Keith Richards’ wannabe. Par for the course of any music group who hit the road and tour for lengthy periods of time.

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The evening started with Sullivan Street and Scarecrow. The sound was a little wonky as the volume took a while to catch the sound man’s ears but that was a blip in an almost two hour show.

The cool thing about A Counting Crows concert is Duritz loves to ad lib and keep the band on it’s toes. Mr. Jones ( in other words) unrecognizable to the passing music fan  whose musical education consists of ad-filled corporate radio. The chorus can be complete then, just like that – a different person is hanging around Mr. Jones with a melody more tuned to a barroom.The entire concept harks back to the early days of  Jazz and later – The Blues. Playing the same tunes over and over again on tour can create boredom musically and physiologically. Duritz nips any trouble in the bud with delicious results and sometimes lengthy tributes in the form of covers.

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Another delicacy from a Crows’ show is the band. Seldom does any band incorporate two piano players and a banjo player. Guitarist Dan Vickrey grabbed the latter while Charlie Gillingham and Millard Powers controlled the former. Adam himself played a moving rendition of A Long December on the keys while the members of the seven piece band took turns switching instruments as the night went on.

For anyone who may think The Counting Crows are a band touring on Nostalgia – songs such as Elvis Went to Hollywood (off their LATEST 2014 ALBUM Somewhere Under Wonderland) fixed that. The millennium version of The Counting Crows deliver a more profound, thoughtful sound. Duritz teetering between wistful and commercial as any pro would. Banter was held to a minimum as if Adam was reluctantly forced into being a front-man. Duritz’ on stage persona, historically, has rotated between down right nasty and ghostly quiet. In Montreal, somewhere in between without the nastiness.

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A Counting Crows concert is also known to be different. Eclectic due to the every changing set-lists. In Montreal – the band remained true to non form.

Several covers were tossed in including Joni Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi’, ‘Start Again’ ( Teenage Fanclub), Kasey’s Anderson’s ‘Like Teenage Gravity’ and The Grateful Dead’s ‘ Friend of the Devil’. Drummer Jim Bogios did his own ‘covers’ all night while channeling Levon Helm’s style and adding enough funk to groove into one of the highlights; ‘Hangin’ Around’.

If Hangin’ Around brought people to their feet, the lack of ‘Round Here’ kept them seated. Seldom does a band omit arguably one of their biggest three hits.

Seldom are bands fronted by guys like Adam Duritz.

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All photos courtesy of James St Laurent Photography.

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