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Concert Reviews:
Counting Crows and Rob Thomas are a perfect pair at DTE

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Wednesday, August 24, 2016

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- Hip-hop fans had their I Love The 90s show just a few days ago at the DTE Energy Music Theatre.

On Tuesday night, Aug. 23, it was the rock fans' turn. And while co-headliners Counting Crows and Rob Thomas played plenty of material from other decades, their shared grounding in 1990s hitmaking gave the show a greater thematic unity than some more random summer amphitheatre pairing -- although not enough for the two to join each other on stage at any point of the evening.

Following a solid but early opening set by Nashville Americana singer-songwriter K Phillips that was witnessed by far too few, Thomas hit the stage wearing a black PVCA T-shirt promising "a beautiful, beautiful night." He did his part with a 16-song, 80-minute set that mined his solo catalog and favorites with matchbox twenty (including "Unwell" and "Bent"), as well as Santana's Grammy Award-winning "Smooth" that Thomas introduced as "kinda like a cover, but I wrote it." He also made the show a bit more special by paying tribute to Prince with a version of "Baby I'm A Star," and adding an extra song -- "Hold On Forever" -- to honor a Twitter request from a couple who's about to get married, who Thomas found seated near the stage on the left side of the pavilion.

Thomas and his facile seven-piece band handled the crafted arrangements of his songs with fluid ease, transitioning smoothly from the full-on rock of "...Something To Be" to the lush tone of "Mockingbird" and steering his "Getting late" -- "a happy little song about death" -- into a portion of the Elvis Presley-popularized "That's All Right." He treated matchbox's "3 A.M." to a rootsy country-western arrangement -- preceding it with a story about his 20-year friendly with Counting Crows' counterpart Adam Duritz -- while the buoyant "Streetcorner Symphony" and a pounding "This Is How A Heart Breaks," along with "Smooth," brought the set to a triumphant close.

Duritz, meanwhile, dubbed Thomas "pretty (expletive) awesome," and Counting Crows' 17-song, 85-minute performance certainly lived up to that description, too. Though its selection of deep cuts, particularly early in the show, didn't quite hold on to all the Thomas fans in the crowd, the assortment of sophisticated arrangements and careful dynamics was a rare display of musicality that was loaded with peak moments -- whether it was the moody textures of "Sullivan Street," "Omaha," "Black And Blue," "Goodnight L.A.," "Recovering The Satellites" and the suite-like "Palisades Park," the biting jam of "Scarecrow" or the rocking furor of "Daylight Fading" and "Hard Candy."

The Grateful Dead's "Friend Of The Devil" was a welcome acoustic interlude while the likes of "A Long December," "Mr. Jones" and "Rain King" put some hit cache into the mix late in the night.

Telling the DTE crowd about the camaraderie on the tour, Duritz -- who switched from a vintage Lou Reed T-shirt to a Frank Turner top midway through the Crows' set -- called the trek "a tour for people who can't get enough of watching each other play." And on Tuesday night it was performed for an audience that clearly shared that sentiment.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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