Twenty five years doesn’t sound like a long time until the opening band tells the crowd how excited his 10-year-old self is to be touring with the headliners. The 25 Years and Counting Tour brought the 90’s back in a big way Saturday at Daily’s Place with Live and the Counting Crows. Both bands are celebrating significant milestones to still be playing music to arenas full of adoring and appreciative fans after all these years.
John Paul Roney of supporting act Boom Forest was in good company, though the majority of the audience was decidedly older than 10 when Live and Counting Crows both kicked off the early 90’s with seminal albums of the era.
Boom Forest opened the show with an oddly ethereal and energetic mix of synthy indie pop. The Wisconsin natives were good sports about playing through the blistering heat, buoyed either by the obvious stoke of playing with ones childhood heroes or an impending heat stroke.
When Live took the stage, the sun was still scorching exactly one half of the crowd like a giant magnifying glass on an amphitheatre full of eager ants. Ed Kowalczyck was equally buoyant, tearing through the band’s catalog with renewed vigor following the band’s triumphant return after a 12-year separation. The crowd responded in kind, singing along to hits like “All Over You,” “Selling the Drama,” “Lakini’s Juice” and “I Alone,” as well as appreciating the band’s first new music in 12 years like “Love Lounge.”
Kowalczyck tugged the heart strings with a solo acoustic rendition of “Heaven,” written after the birth of his first daughter who is now 16, “When Dolphins Cry” and a stripped down “Turn my Head.” The crowd issued a thunderous demand for an encore and Live delivered with the crowd favorite “Lightning Crashes.” Despite Kowalczyck’s penchant for striking moves that looked like he was modeling for trophies, the band reminded fans why they are still here.
The sun finally set when Counting Crows took the stage and 25 years never sounded so good. Frontman Adam Duritz has proven himself a deft writer and capable talker on his current podcast but its his ability to create a visual image as a poet and consummate storyteller sets him apart from his contemporaries.
The Crows kicked things off wth “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” and “Hanging Tree” before launching into crowd favorite “Omaha,” a song that allows the accordion to be the cool kid for once instead of the polka dork.
Duritz isn’t the typical frontman in that he doesn’t “work” the stage. He’s not as much interested in whipping the crowd into a frenzy as he is creating an atmosphere where audience and band are equal partners sharing a sacred and special time together. He often sits on the speaker or the drum riser, appreciating the skills of his friends and bandmates and marveling at the audience as they sing his words back to him in grateful chorus.
Last night, Duritz shared stories that inspired many of the band’s biggest commercial hits like ‘Round Here and the crowd favorites like “Miami” and “Color Blind.” He told of watching the countryside evolve from the mountains of Appalachia to the midwestern plains to the dry haze of the Texas desert form the back of his family’s shitty gold station wagon. His connection to the breadth of the country and the memories that bore into him like sand spurs come to life.
As a singer, Duritz never sounded better and the band was at the top of their game. The only drawback is the continued refusal to play “Mr. Jones” but any dues owed to the guy that stormed the barrio and helped put the Crows on the map should be considered paid in full. It’s been 25 years and counting but Duritz still reigns supreme. He is the Rain King.