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Concert Reviews:
Counting Crows Imperfect But Interesting At Meadow Brook

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Thursday, July 9, 2009

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ROCHESTER HILLS -- Late in Counting Crows show on Wednesday (July 8) at the Meadow Brook Music Festival, frontman Adam Duritz proudly informed the crowd that "we don't have a lot of fear -- perhaps mistakenly."

Give the man credit for clear perspective.

Duritz and the Crows have embarked on something brave and a little crazy this summer -- the Saturday Night Rebel Rockers Traveling Circus and Medicine Show, a revue-style presentation in which the bands on the tour function as one large entity rather than separate groups. The Crows' concept takes full flight later this month, when Michael Franti & Spearhead join in, but Wednesday's show, with the Crows and Augustana, offered something of a two-band preview and showed it to be promising but clearly in-progress.

It was still structured like a traditional show, with Augustana opening -- albeit joined by Crows guitarists David Bryson, Dan Vickrey and David Immergluck guesting on several songs. After the usual intermission, though, the Crows and Augustana both strode on stage together, and the latter would be part of more than two-thirds of the 90-minute "headline" set's 15 songs.

The collaboration was sometimes more fun to watch than it was to listen to. Songs such as Van Morrison's "Caravan" and the Crows' own "Omaha" and "Hanginaround" did not suffer for the cacophony of uncertain arrangements and individual parts. "Mrs. Potter's Lullaby," however, was a train wreck, and it was not surprising when Duritz noted afterwards that it had not been rehearsed. It was something of a relief, then, when the seven-member Crows settled into a six-song run on its own, with strong performances of "A Long December," "Perfect Blue Buildings," "Sundays" and "Good Time," the latter preceded by a Duritz discourse about celebrity media that, among other things, romantically linked him with an actress he said he's never met.

(Fans, by the way, did notice the omission of the Crow's two biggest hits, "Mr. Jones" and the "Shrek 2" theme "Accidentally in Love," but that's the kind of band it is.)

Augustana's Dan Layus was back on stage for "Washington Square," and the rest of his band joined for a rocking "Why Should You Come When I Call." There were moments of brilliance in the encores, however, that showed just how potent the Traveling Circus could be -- a jubilant rendition of Simon & Garfunkel's "Cecilia," a happily shambolic take on the Crows' "Rain King" that sidetracked into the Beatles' "A Little Help From My Friends" and an earnest rendition of Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," underscoring some community service themes and voter registration encouragement Duritz voiced twice during the evening.

At that point it was easy to see what the tour could, and probably will, become later this summer. So consider Wednesday's stop something like the out-of-town workshop for a Broadway-bound musical -- imperfect, but undeniably interesting.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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