Review: Counting Crows at Ruth Eckerd Hall
Generally, I judge a Counting Crows show by the length of time they devote to Round Here. The longer that song takes to play, the better the concert usually is. But they didn't play Round Here at Ruth Eckerd Hall on Monday night. They didn't play Mr. Jones. And they didn't play anything off the new album. Instead, they spent three and a half hours jamming mostly deep cuts to a nearly full house, and sharing the stage with kinetic hip-hop reggae force of nature Michael Franti and Spearhead, and Augustana.
The tour is billed as the Saturday Night Rebel Rocker Traveling Circus and Medicine Show. Try fitting that on a T-shirt. The bands -- all three of them at once -- hit the stage at 7:30, starting a set that could at any moment feature any or all of the bands shuttling on and off the stage with up to 18 people on the stage at any time. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, but it all worked out. The pacing created by three distinct genres sharing a stage was a little challenging at times, but ultimately what happened is Augustana's contemplative folk rock allowed for a moment of rest from the aerobics session that seemed to break out each time Franti was on stage. When the man was singing, flash pots exploding in every seat would not have gotten people on their feet faster.
For the Crows part, they were strong on their live standards. Mrs. Potter's Lullaby, A Long December, Rain King. And for the second half of the concert, lead singer Adam Duritz was playing injured. He had knee surgery recently, and the wound opened up. From the auditorium, the stain on his jeans was clear. Close up photos on his Twitter page were nearly gruesome. But it couldn't have hurt too much. He was jumping around like nothing happened.
Franti scored the high point of the set, though, when he played his first Top 40 hit, Say Hey, I Love You. Not only did he pull the street performers from the sidewalk in to back him on flute and drums, but brought up a kid out of the audience to contribute a few key lines. He already had the crowd eating out of his hand. That was just piling on.
-- Jim Webster, tbt*
Photo: Michael Franti, Adam Duritz (Counting Crows) and Dan Layus (Augustana)