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Monday, March 12, 2012

Critic's Notebook: Counting Crows Play the Non-Hits at Slim's

Posted By on Mon, Mar 12, 2012 at 3:26 PM

click to enlarge Counting Crows at Slim's on Friday. - CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio
  • Counting Crows at Slim's on Friday.

Anyone hoping for a live performance of August and Everything After at Counting Crows' intimate Slim's show on Friday -- or even a tour through some of the band's biggest, best songs -- was in for a pretty big disappointment.

Granted, the show wasn't billed as one of those concerts where an older band performs one of its early, beloved albums in full. But fans who paid at least $45 to see these Berkeley grunge-lite stars headline a smallish S.F. club deserved to hear "Mr. Jones," the band's breakout hit, and probably "Round Here," and "Omaha" as well.

click to enlarge CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio

They didn't get to. Instead, Counting Crows filled its sprawling set with lesser-known tunes and tepid covers from its forthcoming Underwater Sunshine album. We got lap-steel guitar on Gram Parsons' "Return of the Grievous Angel" and a Crows take on Fairport Convention's "Meet Me on the Ledge," which were crisp and clear through the house P.A., but ultimately unsatisfying.

In a 19-song set, the Crows played only four tunes from the days when everyone used to sing along to them on the radio: "Sullivan Street" and "Anna Begins" off the debut, and "Catapult" and the hit "Long December" from follow-up Recovering the Satellites.

When the Crows finally did get around to the latter tune near the end, they contorted the song into an overwrought slog, killing the slow but insistent rise of "Long December." Duritz stopping things midway through to castigate himself and his band for sounding "terrible" didn't help, either.

There was one funny moment, when Duritz introduced the new covers album, noting that performing songs "by other people ... is so much easier than emptying my gut for another hour." But Friday's set could have used way more gut-emptying -- that's what Duritz and the Crows do best, after all -- and a lot less of other people's music.

Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: I was so bored through the middle of the show that I left for a few songs and came back to hear "Long December." (The setlist was plainly visible on the sound engineer's console, and it didn't encourage me to stay.)

click to enlarge CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio

Adam Duritz's dreadlocks: Still look like a separate creature, and even more like a desperate bid for credibility than you remember.

The crowd: A colleague remarked that the older, well-heeled audience was one of the worst crowds he'd ever been in. Not sure I'd go that far, but having to stand in a hot, cramped room with territorial people who aren't used to being hot or cramped didn't make the experience any more enjoyable.

More photos after the jump.

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Ian S. Port

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