Counting Crows and The WallFlowers Live at PNC Arts Center – Concert Review by James Campion

Aquarian Weekly 7/28/97

IN THEIR PRIME Counting Crows/ The Wallflowers PNC Arts Center 7/14/97

Holmdel, New Jersey

Rarely do headlining rock acts take a step to the side to allow for shared equality in popularity. But with the rise of Bob Dylan’s kid and the nostalgic combo, The Wallflowers, Counting Crows leveled the playing field for one balmy night in New Jersey. Both bands received similar ovations, producing inspired encores, while slicing into the pocket of understated licks and subtle energy to pump out two sets of uneven intensity.

Duritz & DylanJakob Dylan led his five-piece band through an hour-plus show of their second CD, Bringing Down The Horse, which has sold over three million copies and has been pumped through modern rock and pop radio ad nauseum for close to a year. Almost forgettable in appearance and nearly devoid of any stage histrionics, the band was tight and extremely composed while sounding eerily like a 90s’ version of The Band, who ironically backed Bob Dylan’s oft celebrated electric phase of the mid 60s’. This was made abundantly clear during a fine rendition of the classic group’s biggest single, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” which served as the set’s highlight, along with a soulful reading of The Wallflower’s first hit, “6th Avenue Heartbreak.” with accompaniment by Counting Crows’ lead singer, Adam Duritz.

Although looking frighteningly close to his father’s once imposing stage presence, Dylan, now considered the latest in a line of reluctant sex symbols, seemed a little embarrassed by the screams from the predominantly female audience; going as far as to playfully berating them for not standing and dancing.

The Counting Crows, also touring their second effort, Recovering The Satellites, which unlike The Wallflowers disc has been a step back to its riveting predecessor, August And Everything After, eased slowly into the evening’s proceedings with broad and humble strokes. With wonderful texture and remarkable dynamics, the more energetic of the two bands looked to be in their prime; moving through a healthy catalogue of lyrically packed musical vignettes.

No band outside of the 60s’ genre, and certainly none in the cookie-cutter age of video, so consistently reinvents a song like Counting Crows. There was no better example than on this night. Beginning with many new songs including, “Daylight Fading” and Catapult” through emotionally dynamic renditions of “Anna Begins,” “Rain King,” and the enigmatic, “Mr. Jones” the audience was treated to a band in constant creative motion, like an open jam or private rehearsal stripped bare and caressed with smooth melody. Much like The Wallflowers’ set, which seemed to drag in the mire of mid-tempo, there were moments of spontaneous beauty as in the closing numbers, “Round Here” and “A Long December,” when singer and primary songwriter, Duritz pranced around poetry and overt longing to explode into pure adrenaline and purpose.

To his credit, Duritz effectively toes the line of pretension without sinking into helpless melodrama. Thanks to a band made up of excellent musicians and even better interpreters of sense and style.

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