Review: Counting Crows compete with noisy crowd at Stage AE

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Adam Duritz noted that having toiled in the heat and humidity of the Carolinas the past few days, it was "like heaven here."

Well, almost heaven.

Counting Crows and its true fans had challenges to deal with aside from weather, which was lovely Friday night. Steve Miller, who countered this show with his own at First Niagara Pavilion, recently complained about the attention spans and behavior of modern-day crowds.

This one was a handful. Counting Crows is a nuanced band centered around the often tender narratives in their frontman's lyrics. Unfortunately, there were a lot of people in this near sold-out crowd who came to drink tall beers, talk loudly with friends and just tune into the handful of radio songs. Anyone standing around the edges heard more chatter than anything else, so it was a toxic combination of an outdoor Friday night drinking crowd and a folky band with a somewhat introverted and awkward frontman.

Mr. Duritz also had to bring the band to a screeching halt twice due to fights, the first time during "Omaha." "Stop that," he said. "There's no fighting during folk songs. That's just weird." If you were lucky to be in a spot where you could hear, most likely somewhere smack in the middle, Counting Crows sounded as good as ever, and there were flashes of good spirit during the show, particularly during the sing-alongs on favorites like "A Long December," "Hanginaround" and the peaceful parts of "Omaha." "You sing better than me," Mr. Duritz, sporting his wild dreadlocked wig, said at one point. "You take it."

Counting Crows lead singer, Adam Duritz, opened the concert with "Round Here" outdoors at Stage AE on the North Shore. Guitarist Dan Vickrey, right.(John Heller/Post-Gazette)

The advertised previews of the forthcoming album, "Somewhere Under Wonderland" (the band's first new material in six years), sounded promising. "God of Ocean Tides," starting delicate like "Dust in the Wind," was a quiet tale of travel and separation; "Cover Up the Sun" was a flowing folk-rocker reminiscent of early '90s; "Earthquake Driver" came across as the breezy, funny rocker the singer promised will lighten their sound; and "Palisades Park," the first encore, found Mr. Duritz spilling words in full-blown early Springsteen story mode.

Fans got a loose, extended "Round Here" at the outset and a spirited "Rain King" in the encore, but the glaring omission was the band's biggest hit and signature song "Mr. Jones," which had been on recent setlists. There was even a sense of disbelief when the houselights went on after the 100-minute set. I can guarantee you there were a lot of talkative people waiting all night for that one.

Toad the Wet Sprocket, a band that never really grabbed people by the collar, opened with a like-minded set that also competed for the crowd's attention, especially when it tried to play new songs. The band got a spark of recognition from the last three songs of the set -- "All I Want," "Fall Down" and "Walk on the Ocean" -- but for the most part did little to avoid blending in with scenery. 

Scott Mervis:; 412-263-2576.

First Published June 28, 2014 12:00 AM

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