Even though Toad the Wet Sprocket formed a year before I was born, when they started playing "All I Want" last night opening for Counting Crows, I had chills. It's funny how you can know songs that are about as old as you are, there's some kind of muscle memory from hearing it in the backseat of your mom's car, strapped into the car-seat, soaking up her musical influences.
The show was impressive whether or not you could identify anything other than the hits like "Walk on the Ocean." The band offered a combination of strong rock vocals enveloped in some very sexy guitar playing. Singer Glen Phillips' interaction with the audience felt natural. He thanked people for actually coming to the show "early," knowing how many waltz into a concert just in time to see the headliners. He also cracked some jokes, and asked if anyone had the score to the Miami Heat game, saying he knew it had to have been a hard choice for some of the people in the crowd, picking the concert over the game.
Counting Crows made an incredibly smart move by taking the stage and opening with "Round Here," one of their best known songs, which had fans screaming the moment they heard the intro.
Adam Duritz, unlike Phillips, didn't make easy conversation with the fans, mostly just introducing a few song and explaining briefly what they were about. That being said, Duritz is the kind of man who doesn't need to use a lot of words to connect with people around him. Instead of jokes and verbal charm, Duritz had the crowd completely mesmerized and lapping up every bit of his talent as he was tied to everyone by doing what he does best, pouring his guts into each and every performance.
Watching Duritz live feels incredibly intimate, almost like watching someone strip onstage but not at a strip club. But without the awkwardness you might expect. There were moments when his eyes were closed, when he wasn't really making a lot of eye contact with the crowd at all, but it really didn't matter because it wasn't what you saw, but what you felt. It's not like the guy is up there singing light and cheery songs. A lot of what Duritz writes has to do with struggle and heartbreak and you can feel every tortured drop of emotion as he sweats it out in front of you.
The band played a good number of their bigger hits and were sure to bring "Mr. Jones" to Hollywood. It's one of those songs everyone pretty much expects to hear from the band, and they delivered. Fans were on their feet, dancing and singing along to the well-known song. "Hanginaround" was another one that everyone knew and could really get into. "Long December" is always a special one because Duritz melts the crowd with not only his powerhouse vocals but his soulful piano playing, and his thick black-rimmed glasses didn't hurt either, just sayin'.
It was also exciting to hear some of the band's newer stuff, including the first track on Somewhere Under Wonderland, "Palisades Park" which Duritz is very proud of, and understandably so. His already autobiographical lyrics seem to get more and more personal as his career progresses. This new song almost makes you feel like you're not just at a concert but at some kind of live performance art show. Other new songs included "Elvis Went to Hollywood" and "Scarecrow," and the entire crowd seemed rapt.
When the band finished with an encore of "Rain King," it was time to say goodbye. Duritz almost seemed hesitant to leave the crowd and break the tie that'd been build over the past few hours. He thanked everyone for coming and told his fans no to worry because they would be back again.
Probably the funniest moment of the night was when, as he was about to walk off stage, an old Beach Boys song began to boom from the stereo system. Duritz jumped up on a speaker at the front of the stage and began to move his arms around jokingly pretending to conduct the music that's meant to tell people it's time to hit the road. And with that, they did.