The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Counting Crows Keeps Hits Fresh

The bands offered a packaged tour tailor-made for young, boomer-bred audiences to drink overpriced beer on the lawn and warmly recall the radio fodder of the past decade.

The fair-weather lawn jockeys turned out for the adult alternative staples "Mr. Jones" and "Lightning Crashes" and went home satisfied to hear them both.

Ignorance may be bliss, but the hit-mongers still missed two bands newly settled into the role of career artists, but still capable of pure rock magic.

"It's great just to be here and know we did it," Counting Crows bassist Matt Malley said. "But we still aspire to be as big as we can get."

Live answered the call with a faithful hit parade from the 1994 gazillion-seller Throwing Copper. More admirably, the band pretended that everyone in the crowd knew that the 1999 commercial-flop The Distance to Here also contained an abundance of rich melodies, and an even more mature sense of cohesion.

The wannabe anthems "The Distance" and "Dance With You" more than held their own alongside commercial heavyweights "All Over You" and "I Alone," simply because the entire body of Live's music consists of variations on the Holy Trinity of "faith and sex and God" (as helpfully enumerated in the Counting Crows' hit "Rain King").

Anxious to preserve some rock 'n' roll sleaze amid his strange brew of Eastern mysticism and Christian rock overtones (imagine if MCA fronted DC Talk), frontman Ed Kowalcyzk attempted to move the crowd with his pelvis more than with his soul.

But rather than emphasize the spirituality of sex, Kowalcyzk missed the incongruence between his strident God songs and his "Ladies' Man"-worthy between-song patter.

However, when Kowalcyzk ditched his game, Live emerged as the perfect large-venue band, U2 to a generation too media-savvy for unhip sincerity.

Sure enough, the Counting Crows also beat its dead horses, "Round Here" and "Mr. Jones," but far bettered the letter-perfect studio dupes of Live.

"We do feel pressure to perform the hits, but we work really hard to keep them fresh," Malley said.

Rest assured, frontman Adam Duritz still navel-gazes to his heart's discontent, as the Counting Crows concert experience boils down to a Duritz mood ring, an aural chart of his emotions.

In the space of 24 hours, from the previous night in Charlotte to the performance in Raleigh, the band abruptly but expertly shifted from loud, enthused takes on "Angels of the Silences" and "Mrs. Potter's Lullaby" to Raleigh's hourlong journey into the somber Duritz abyss, a far from uncommon sight on this tour.

"We've really learned to utilize silence and quiet as powerful weapons," Malley said.

In the mood for scattershot self-examination here, Duritz freely meditated on his favorite subject, himself.

A lyrical pack rat, Duritz carries on an endless dialogue with himself from the stage, where scraps of obscure songs and familiar covers serve as a poignant road map of his consciousness. It lends a pulse to the stale hits, and shapes memory into something alive and vital.

The leap from obscure verses from Sordid Humor, with whom Duritz once sang, to Travis and TLC sound-bites should seem illogical to everyone but Duritz. It's his psyche on display, his disjointed associations that fascinate us while the subject himself remains knee-deep in self-discovery.

Duritz even inserted the lovely "Private Archipelago" intro before "A Long December," an unexpected treasure lost on almost everyone except my Crows-obsessed girlfriend.

Casual radio-reared listeners might latch onto the familiar classic rock revivalism of "Mr. Jones," but such "fans" miss the imperfect, naked soul Duritz bares every night, and the confident interplay of a gifted, veteran band.

"We constantly remind ourselves that we live in a dream," Malley said. "But we always keep in mind that we're just here to serve the music."

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

Special Print Edition
The Daily Tar Heel Women's Tennis Victory Paper