Counting Crows fans in Cedar Rapids Thursday night heard a lot of what they have loved about Adam Duritz and company over the San Fransisco Bay area-band’s nearly 20 year history.
The musicality, Duritiz’s gravely yet sultry voice, story telling lyrics and the passion were all evident on stage for RAGBRAI’s 40th Birthday Bash in downtown Cedar Rapids.
The Crows were in fine form, jamming out to song after song for two hours.
Missing from the Crows performance, however, were a few of the songs that have gained them a following over the years. No “Big Yellow Taxi” or “Omaha” appeared during either the 16-or-so song set or the encore.
Others — “Colorblind,” ” A Long December,” “Mr. Jones” and “Rain King” — were sprinkled in, but judging by the audience reaction to “Mr. Jones” in particular, they would have liked to have heard more.
But, it’s been 20 years, perhaps they are tired of playing the same songs on repeat. We have iTunes for that, right? At one point in response to the audience Duritz could be heard saying “I couldn’t possibly sing that song. I don’t know it any more.”
The band is, after all, touring in support of their newest album “Underwater Sunshine,” which Duritz told us in an interview in advance of the concert is a collection of “songs we just felt like playing.” The CD is a collection of cover songs spanning the 1960s to last year, from the likes of Pure Prairie League, The Faces, Bob Dylan and Kasey Anderson and The Honkies (one of the three bands on tour with the Crows).
Thursday’s concert had that same vibe. From the moment Duritz walked on stage, hands in his pockets — where they remained for most of the opening number “Sullivan Street” — it was his show to do what he wanted with.
He added “Return of the Grevious Angel” on a whim.
“We weren’t gonna play that song tonight, but I figured I was gonna miss it. So I stuck it back in,” he said.
Duritz is a stage presence with his signature dred locks and emotive performance style. Some people talk with their hands; Duritz sings with his. But not in the reaching to a heaven way of some (over) performers. More often Duritz hands turned inward, covering his eyes, pressing to his chest.
But he also shared the stage and the praise. He thanked the men of all three opening bands — We Are Augustines, Filed Report and Kasey Anderson & The Honkies — who also joined the Crows for several encore songs.
The 20 minutes that the 20 men jammed on stage together was perhaps the best of the two-hour concert. Duritz started with “my favorite song by my favorite band” and followed with “Hanginaround.”
And the concert ended on a patriotic note.
“Some people think this song is hokey. I think it’s a revolution song,” said Duritz before encouraging the audience to exercise their right to vote in the coming presidential elections.
“There is no act more patriotic than showing up to vote,” he said. “If you vote it’s not a divided country. Whatever choice we make together is the right choice.”
Then, in a fitting end to a concert for a ride that has been bringing people from all 50 states together in the heartland for 40 years, Duritz led all the musicians in a rousing, enthusiastic rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”