Concerts: Counting Crows at Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium (San Francisco)

Despite only recently overcoming a fever, Adam Duritz brought a good game to San Francisco on November 20 by playing a fair mixture of upbeat and soulful tunes.

But first, the opening acts. Mean Creek hails from Boston and played a number of loud and rousing tunes probably meant to foster the energy of the crowd, but unfortunately for the bad, the arena was still half empty at the time they took the stage. Still, they made a fair attempt, and the lead singer took the time to talk about what each song was about before singing, though there was something preacher-like in this; I half expected a sermon.

Then Tender Mercies, who started in San Francisco and whom Duritz claims has had great influence on his own music, took the stage. One can definitely see the, er, "family resemblance" in the musical styles? "Four White Stallions" is a Tender Mercies song that Counting Crows has covered; Tender Mercies took it back for this show and did a really nice job over all in numbers like "Ball and Chain." Didn't much care for "Scarecrow," but that seemed to be the odd one out for me; most of their music, while not something I would necessarily hunt for, was not unpleasant.

In short, both Mean Creek and Tender Mercies made fine accompaniments to Counting Crows' own style. On the whole, it was like a well-planned meal in which all the flavors work.

Then the main act took the stage, starting with "Round Here," which is kind of a slow build, but it worked. If Duritz's goal was to get everyone in the same headspace, this song did it by setting the tone. Far from dragging everyone down, though, the band followed up the opening number with something much faster and upbeat, and that became the story of the night—a slow one here, a fast one there, but done so well that instead of feeling like a see-saw, it was more like a conscientious balancing act.

Counting Crows has such a huge catalogue of hits that of course they couldn't touch nearly all of them. "Mrs. Potter's Lullaby" was probably the one song that really got the audience excited, though "Rain King" (which was cut in with a take on "Someone to Watch Over Me") was also very well received, and "Omaha," and certainly "A Long December," for which Duritz had the piano rolled out onto the stage. I would have liked to hear them to their cover of Pure Prairie League's "Amie," but one can't have everything; they chose to cover something by Teenage Fan Club instead.

Duritz did a fine job sticking the night out, but by the end of it all it was clear he wasn't completely over whatever illness had felled him a day or two before, and his voice was beginning to give. They ended with "Holiday in Spain," which is a favorite of mine and a good closing number.

I wouldn't say the concert was transcendent or anything (I've been to some like that, though I suspect that feeling might be directly related to how much weed the people around me are smoking at the time), but it was solid, a very enjoyable show.

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