Once in a while you are presented with the opportunity to see a band that you have listened to a lot but have never really made the effort to see play live. I had a lucky break as my friend Andy Golborne’s partner Rachel was unable to attend a gig by the truly splendid Counting Crows. So I became the lucky owner of her ticket and went along to the O2 Apollo in Manchester last to see the band. This was the first time I have seen them but Andy has seen them on many occasions.
The support was provided by Lucy Rose a 23-year-old singer songwriter from Surrey. She has previously provided some vocals when recording with the Bombay Bicycle Club. She strikes me very much of a young Joni Mitchel but with even more jazz sensibilities. Her band is tight and very talented. To me there is almost an undercurrent of some of the better aspects of prog Rock in their delivery. The exposure of touring with Counting Crows can only enhance her profile and I would definitely see her again. In fact I would like to apologise for missing her at last years Reading Festival.
The Counting Crows. What can I say? Probably that they are even better live than they are on record and I do believe that their recorded output is bloody good! I can’t believe that this is the first time I have seen them in concert. Adam Duritz mentioned that he had woken up in the morning with a sore throat but that did not seem to mar his vocal performance which was brilliant. it did mean that we missed out on some of the story telling introductions that he often does when playing live. But that was a very small price to pay. The crowd was made up of mostly hard-core Crows fans. The bloke in front of me went nuts for almost every song and it looked like he had his kids with him, they also seemed to love it.
The band seems to really love what they are doing as well and this made for a stupendous all round performance which they enjoyed as much as the audience. I was really pleased that they raided their back catalogue excellently and didn’t stick with just the big hits; there was no “Mr Jones” for example. The band took to the stage to the sound of Bill Withers’ classic “Lean On Me” and left at the end of the evening to “California dreamin'” from the Mamas and Papas, to which Mr Duritz led us in a sing along. But obviously it’s what was sandwiched between those classic records that was most important. If I mentioned every highlight I would simply type in the set list! The first part of the show had excellent versions of “Omaha” and “I Wish I Was A Girl”.
The acoustic set in the middle of the show was beautiful, especially the arrangement of “Mercury”. acoustically this was accompanied by a cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Friend Of The Devil” and another Counting Crows classic, “When I Dream Of Michelangelo“. After that excellent trio the set kicked back into electric gear, starting with a rousing “Round Here”. The cover of Gillian Welch‘s “Look At Miss Ohio” was truly stunning and new arrangement (to me at least) of “Rain King” was a truly emotional experience. The encore included “Washington Square” and a gorgeous rendition of “Holiday In Spain”. are the Counting Crows the best live band I have ever seen? Not quite but they are definitely in my top 5 and I will certainly see them again. In fact next time I shall take the wonderful Catwoman (a.k.a. my beautiful wife Catherine) with me.
Please note that apart from the picture at the top of this post none of the images or films were taken by me.