Ellie Hogrebe, Staff Writer
Despite the clouds that filled the St. Louis sky on the evening of Sept. 9, the weather remained pleasantly cool and dry to welcome Counting Crows to their performance on Sunday night at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater.
The excitement for when the Counting Crows would take the stage grew as fans were treated to opening acts by Boom Forest and Live. Boom Forest, the stage name for a Nashville-based singer-songwriter John Paul Roney, began his set as the sun went down. Roney offered up mellow, jazzy tunes filled with synth beats and mourning vocals. Live took the stage next, ramping up the atmosphere with loud, fast, guitar-driven numbers including their mid-90s hit, “I Alone.” Live was joined in a surprise appearance by Richard Fortus of Guns N’ Roses during their rendition of Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me To Do.” Although both opening artists had sounds that were distinctly different from the headlining act, the crowd cheered on Boom Forest and got to its feet for Live.
Counting Crows made their appearance at 9 p.m., allowing ample time for the audience to anticipate their entrance. Their “25 Years and Counting” tour celebrates the large, widely acclaimed collection of music the band has produced since their formation in 1991 with songs from seven studio albums to play for fans. The setlist featured hits ranging from the band’s 1993 debut album “August and Everything After” to their most recent release, 2014’s “Somewhere Under Wonderland.” Screams of excitement from the crowd followed the opening notes of every song the band played. With over 25 years’ worth of music to choose from in composing their concert setlist, there were no songs that fell flat. Some of the biggest cheers were for fan favorites “Mr. Jones” and “Round Here.”
Adam Duritz, the dreadlocked and introspective lead singer of Counting Crows, was a relaxed presence onstage in jeans and a graphic tee shirt. The persona he projected was not of a famous musician basking in the glow of renown that has lasted decades, but that of a man who still finds new meaning and wonder in the words he wrote years ago, in words he has sung countless times.
Throughout the concert, Duritz prefaced songs with stories and explanations regarding the creation and inspiration for those pieces of music. The audience was invited into intimate, vulnerable snapshots of Duritz’s life and mind. A heart-wrenching goodbye to a loved one followed by the sight of a bridge suspended between the night sky and the body of water below it produced the first verse of “God of Ocean Tides.” Duritz’s childhood spent moving all over the country inspired his ode to the Midwest, “Omaha.”
Fans of Counting Crows were pleased with the band’s effort to engage their audience and let them inside their songwriting process. Margaret Reilly, a fan who attended the concert on Sunday, “thought [it] was so meaningful that [Duritz] wanted to open up to complete strangers and be so vulnerable in front of so many people” about the experiences and feelings that generate the distinct sound and thought-provoking lyrics that characterize the band. Counting Crows’ performance was a far cry from “bands [that] get up there and just power through their set and don’t even try to connect with the people who came to see them”, Reilly said.
On Sunday night, Counting Crows showcased their unique sound that hovers somewhere between rock, folk and pop, infused with bright bursts of harmonica, accordion and mandolin. The group gave the audience one of the greatest gifts a band can give to the people who come to see them perform: they sounded as good as, if not better, than they do on their recorded albums.
Duritz’s melancholy, expressive voice painted vivid pictures of the emotions that color the words of the songs. The members of the band on the backing instruments were energetic and obviously enjoying themselves, if a little less engaged with the audience than their frontman. A highlight of the night occurred when Duritz sat alone at a piano and performed the stirring ballad “Colorblind” with the stage lights dulled to a dim blue glow.
Counting Crows’ stop in St. Louis on their celebratory tour was successful.
“The combination of the nice weather, [the] band’s vibe, and the attitude of the audience meshed really well together” said concert attendee Abigail Chauvin.
Fans will be counting the days until the Crows return in the future.