Two Bands in Bloom

Counting Crows - The Wallflowers - Bettie Serveert

New World Music Theatre - Tinley Park, IL

July 5, 1997

First Appeared in The Music Box, August 1997, Volume 4, #8

Written by John Metzger

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The summer concert season has been blessed with outstanding double bills and festival line-ups, and the Counting Crows/Wallflowers show was no exception. This pairing should not come as a surprise, given that Adam Duritz, singer for the Counting Crows, makes a guest vocal appearance on The Wallflowers' huge hit 6th Avenue Heartache. Unfortunately, Duritz did not join The Wallflowers this evening, though both bands' sets were filled with inspiration.

Both the Counting Crows and The Wallflowers suffer a bit from the audience only paying attention to the hits. Yet, this didn't seem to bother either band terribly much as they scattered the obligatory songs throughout their respective shows.

Following an entertaining set from opening band Bettie Serveert, The Wallflowers performed 65 minutes worth of solid rock 'n roll. Of course, the hits One Headlight, 6th Avenue Heartache, and The Difference made appearances, but the songs surprisingly held their edge despite the many times that they've been performed.

In fact, since The Wallflowers opened for Blues Traveler last fall, the band has become tighter. Michael Ward is still a bit enthusiastic about his vocals, but his voice didn't overwhelm Jakob Dylan's quite as much this time around. Sadly, the excellent keyboard work of Rami Jaffee was lost in the mix, but Ward more than made up for it with his blistering guitar leads.

One of the most humorous points of the evening came when Jakob Dylan conned an audience member into giving up a bootleg t-shirt. After saying he liked the shirt, and asking where the fan had purchased it, Dylan requested the shirt, and tossed it backstage.

As The Wallflowers plunged through passionate readings of Three Marlenas and I Wish I Felt Nothing, Dylan's voice seemed at times to mutate into a raspy echo of his father. Several cover songs popped up as well, including The Beatles' Cry Baby Cry (which baffled the top-40-trained audience), and a rousing, set-closing Brand New Cadillac, which was made popular by The Clash.

The lights remained off, and, despite the poor applause, The Wallflowers returned to the stage for a well-deserved encore. Dylan had donned a hat, making him look even more like his father. It was fitting when the band tore through The Weight, much to the delight of the crowd.

It was the Counting Crows that stole the show with an inspired performance that managed to outdo its spectacular concert at the Aragon in March. The setlist was slightly revised (they mix things up at every show), and the band was tight, even on the lengthy excursions that singer Adam Duritz is prone to take.

Entering to the music of California Dreamin', the Counting Crows  immediately launched into a majestic Recovering the Satellites. The group wasted little time, blasting through Angels of the Silences and the country-influenced Daylight Fading. After a quick sing-along of Happy Birthday for bassist Matt Malley, the band unleashed a solid Anna Begins. Duritz's vocals soared in circles around the melody, vacillating between a beatnik recitation and a passionate serenade. The intensity built further as the band shred I'm Not Sleeping into an emotional outburst of anger, and despite the upbeat music of Rain King, the loneliness in Duritz's voice pervaded.

Next, the Counting Crows settled comfortably into an extended acoustic set as a means of preparing for an upcoming episode of VH-1's Storytellers. Sadly, the audience paid less attention to this portion of the show, despite the fact that the ensemble's incredible musicianship really shined. Angels of the Silences was repeated here, but it was more haunting version. Also given a work-out was the bluesy Mercury, and a campfire-like reading of Omaha.

However, the highlight of the acoustic set was a stellar performance of Mr. Jones during which the Counting Crows twisted the familiar  pop song into a depressing view of the rock scene. Led by Duritz, the band broke out a few lines of The Byrds' So You Want to Be a Rock 'n Roll Star before curving into a rendition of Mr. Jones that gradually unfolded with slightly updated lyrics, and a slower than normal tempo. The band had performed a similar version in March, but this time around the added touch of the opening Byrds' song gave Mr. Jones a bigger impact.

A delicate reading of Goodnight Elisabeth returned the Counting Crows to its electric instruments, and a blistering trilogy of Children in Bloom (featuring some excellent bass runs from Malley), Catapult, and A Murder of One closed out the set. The band returned for its first encore and locked into a gut-wrenching rendition of Round Here that, like Mr. Jones, was revamped and allowed Duritz to take lyrical excursions of psychological import. Duritz pleaded for an end to his loneliness and repeatedly crooned, "Leave the light on," while asking, "Monkey, why'd you leave me?"  A standard, but excellent, version of A Long December followed, and the short, but pretty Walkaways completed the encore. Still, the band returned a second time to pull out one final song from its emotionally charged bag of tricks. After the somber Sullivan Street, the audience thoughtfully ventured to the parking lot, hoping that Duritz and company would return sometime soon.

Counting Crows' Recovering the Satellites is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!

The Wallflowers' Bringing Down the Horse is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!

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Copyright 1997 The Music Box