Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Back-Row Boycott

This post...is about Counting Crows.
[There. That should take care of two of my readers for this entry...one regular, and one semi-regular...as they go scurrying back to their Google Reader for something more entertaining to peruse.]

It's kind of an ongoing joke between me and a couple buddies whenever the Crows come up in conversation. Because...and I know this is impossible to wrap your brain around...some people...don't..like...Counting Crows. (I know!!)

However. I saw them in Milwaukee on Saturday night for the dozenth time, and if I didn't give them a little blog pub here, I'd feel like I wasn't doing my job.

I was a bit torn for this concert, because it was a co-headliner tour with Maroon 5, and...I'm rather apathetic toward Maroon 5. The opener was up-and-comer Sara Bareilles, whom I'd heard on the radio once or twice, and read a few good reviews about.

When I searched for tickets a couple months ago, I found that the closest seats were going for one hundred...and twenty-one...dollars. I didn't know if Maroon 5 pushed the price up that much, or where the hell they came up with a number like that. And on top of that, all the stupid Ticketmaster fees...the convenience charge, the buildings and facilities fee, the order processing fee...jacked the total cost of the ticket up to $146 before they were finished screwing you.

Under certain circumstances I'd pay that. But those circumstances would have to include at least a three-hour show by the Crows, a set list hand-picked by yours truly, and maybe a chance to get up on stage and pound out a few chords of Sullivan Street on the piano with Duritz (provided I learned how to play a few chords on the piano first). Also...Maroon 5 being on tour somewhere else.

None of those things were going to happen, so I held off on a ticket purchase, and a week or so before the show, I went back online and purchased a lawn seat (a $21 ticket that still cost nearly $39) as a form of protest of their outrageous ticket prices. An all-out boycott would have been the way to go, but...it was the Crows. In Wisconsin. I had to go. Had to.

The Marcus Amphitheater in Milwaukee holds somewhere north of 20,000 people, and I didn't think it would be shoulder-to-shoulder for a show like this, and I was right. I'd guess there were about 14,000 people there at the crowd's peak. I had plenty of room to sprawl out on a blanket on the grass, use my camera bag for a pillow, and watch about a gazillion dragonflies zipping through the air as I waited for Sara Bareilles to impress me.

And impress me she did.

She only played maybe seven songs...four of her own, with the Crows' Omaha, a Maroon 5 song, and the Beatles' Oh, Darlin' (partially dueted with Duritz) mixed in.

She's got a lot of soul. Kind of a mix between Norah Jones and Alana Davis, maybe? I'm trying to think of who else she reminds me of. Anyway...I'll be in her audience again in the future.

Maroon 5 came out to the theme song from LaVerne & Shirley, which I totally didn't get until a little later in the show (keep reading). And while nothing they did on stage was going to immediately turn me into a fan, I was at least hoping they'd be mildly entertaining. I guess you have to like the music...because I wasn't entertained. At all. While they weren't "bad" by the correct definition of the word, they were very boring. Their lead singer had very little stage presence...although he had plenty of female fans in the audience, what with the tattoed arm, the plain white T, the scruffy beard.

A couple girls near me on the lawn were arguing over who got to be Adam Levine's girlfriend, and they finally settled on sharing him, each girl having him to herself every other day.

One of their friends chimed in with, "I'd rather be Adam Duritz's girlfriend than Adam Levine's girlfriend any day." To which one of the original girls replied, "Eww, with the corn rows??"

(corn rows, dreadlocks. to-may-to, to-mah-to, right? eeesh.)

I can't help but think every time I hear a Maroon 5 song that the lead singer swallowed a tiny voice synthesizer, and if he just drank a glass of water really quickly, or got a hefty pat on the back, he'd go back to sounding like...I dunno...Harry Connick Jr. Or something.

At the end of the last song, he gave his guitar a few swings and launched it high into the air and let it come crashing down in the middle of the stage. Which I thought was oh, so rock-starish. But then, as we watched on the monitors, he stepped off the stage and went a row or two into the crowd and handed the guitar to a girl who had been holding a sign during the show that said, "Can I Have A Guitar Pick Please?"

Fine...he got some points for that one.

(For the record: This is the point in the show where I snuck into the bleachers to get a bit closer. And by "snuck" I mean "surveyed which half acre of empty bleachers I wanted to claim as my own." Sooo much seating available. And more opening up by the minute as hundreds of people headed for the exits during the Crows first couple songs.)

Before the Crows came out, the theme from Happy Days blared over the loudspeakers, and then...and only then...did the light bulb go on for the LaVerne & Shirley reference. (get it? two TV shows set in Milwaukee......yeah. personally I liked it better the last time I saw them when Lean On Me played from start to finish over the speakers, and the crowd sang along.)

So Duritz walks out, and says, "OK, that was the end of anything happy for the evening. And now...we will begin to mope. But very melodically."

And they went right into Recovering The Satellites, which I haven't heard live in a long, long time. Love the first line: "Gonna get back to basics...guess I'll start it up again."

Second song: Mrs. Potter's Lullaby, which they didn't play when I saw them in Kenosha. That's one of my three or seven or twelve or nineteen favorite Crows songs. Pure poetry.

Each headliner only played for an hour and fifteen minutes, so the set lists weren't too extensive, but the Crows squeezed in 13 songs, or twelve and a half, I guess...because halfway through Sundays, which wasn't sounding too good, Duritz stopped the song and informed the crowd that they were all apparently playing in a different key. And he asked, "Did it really sound that bad out there?" (Yes. It did.) He turned to the drummer and said, "It's not your fault. You were playing drums in the right key."

For those of you geeky enough to want the set list, I'm geeky enough to give it to you: Recovering The Satellites; Mrs. Potter's Lullaby; Richard Manuel Is Dead; Hard Candy; Speedway; Round Here; Sundays; You Can't Count On Me; A Long December (sandwiched in between the beginning and ending of a Sara Bareilles song I don't know the title of); Hanginaround; (encore) Come Around; Walkaways. (You may notice no Mr. Jones!! I believe that's the first concert I've seen where they didn't play Mr. Jones. Shocking.)

When they came back on for the encore, Duritz said, "We've been gone for a few years between albums. I had some shit to work out. Saturday Nights is about me failing to do that. And Sunday Mornings is about me trying to do that."

And then he said that Come Around was a song that let them know, and let us know, that even if they're gone for a while, they'll always come back around...and that they'd see us again in a few years.

I sure hope it's a lot sooner than that.
No matter how many fees I have to absorb.

"Sometimes the world seems like a big hole.
You spend all your life shouting down it
and all you hear are echoes of some idiot
yelling nonsense down a hole."
—Adam Duritz


  1. I'm not their biggest fan (you of course are) but i don't spew the venom that certain good kids do.

    But I being a novel Crows fan would be very disappointed if they didn't play Mr. Jones (i mean fer-da-ka-riced it's on the Tailgating 2008 Mix).

    I don't think i'm familiar with Maroon 5 (although i'd imagine i've heard one or two of their songs in passing w/o knowing).

    But if you're going to do something to wreck a guitar and it's not launching a flaming arrow from a red/white/blue compound bow into a great white buffalo guitar...then you're probably not the guitar wrecking band for me.

    Sounded like you had a good time though and got a no cost seat upgrade for the band you wanted to see anyway...that spells...N..I..C..E..!!!

  2. Nice review. Not a Maroon 5 guy at all so the double bill format and a short Crows set is admittedly what kept us away.

    Sounds like a good set from the Crows though - glad you got a chance to check them out.

    And I'm a big fan of a setlist full of surprises. I think it's great that they don't do a "greatest hits" set.


  3. You should check out Big Bang.
    I think you'd like them.