Tourmates Live and Counting Crows find their common ground in St. Louis
"So this is pretty cool -- you got us, you got Galactic
, and you got Live
," Counting Crows
singer Adam Duritz declared midway through the band's set at St. Louis' Riverport Amphitheatre on Saturday night. By that time, it was clear that the seemingly incongruous mix of acts indeed was
pretty cool. But skeptics could be forgiven for holding their judgment until that point.
After all, there may be some crossover in the co-headlining bands' fan bases, but Counting Crows and Live go about their business in such wildly different fashions that it seemed unlikely to produce a show that would be satisfyingly cohesive. The Crows, of course, are known for putting the old wine of classic-rock stylings into the new skins of hits like "Mr. Jones," "Round Here" and "Have You Seen Me Lately?" Duritz's persona as a dreadlocked, perpetually wounded soldier of love is their primary calling card. Live, meanwhile, are all about grand gestures. Shaven-headed frontman Ed Kowalczyk isn't afraid to think big, and his main subject lately seems to be nothing less than the planet's salvation via a cosmic dose of peace and love amid the apocalyptic chaos of lightning crashing, rivers raging and dolphins crying.
It's the two singers' charisma, sincerity and intensity that hold this bill together, though. This being only their second date, maybe it's not too late to dub it "The Importance of Being Earnest Tour."
After Live's energetic set, the Crows came out charging hard with a trio of songs -- "A Murder of One," "I Wish I Was a Girl" and "Angels of the Silences" -- that found Duritz racing from one end of the stage to the other, performing high scissors kicks, balancing himself on the stage monitors, and leaping atop the piano. "That's a lot of jumping around early in a set," he said, trying to catch his breath afterwards. "I think I'm gonna throw up."
He didn't, thankfully, but by then the Crows had settled into a more comfortable groove on "Omaha" and "High Life" before picking things back up with a fine rendition of "Children in Bloom" which spotlighted the talents of lead guitarist Dan Vickery and bassist Matt Malley.
Though they mostly stayed in the background throughout the show, the rest of the group -- guitarist Dave Bryson, drummer Ben Mize and keyboardist Charles Gillingham, abetted by multi-instrumentalist David Immergluck -- played with passion on a fervent version of "All My Friends," a quietly intense "Anna Begins" and a playful run-through of "Mr. Jones." The Crows wound up their set with "St. Robinson and His Cadillac Dream" and a celebratory "Hanginaround," inviting the members of all the bands to join them onstage. They encored with a country-ish version of "Daylight Fading" and "A Long December."
Live's hour-and-a-quarter-long set was packed with full-throttle anthemic rock that found the group to be still quite adept, as they put it themselves, at selling the drama.
Outdoor summer shows are not without their hazards, though, and Kowalczyk stopped short at one point between songs to gulp hard and announce, "I just swallowed a bug -- no, I'm serious." Ever the trouper, he concluded, "I got my protein for the day," and went on.
Live's set was dominated by songs from their most recent album, The Distance to Here
. Opening with the ethereal "Where Fishes Go," the quartet -- Kowalczyk, bassist Patrick Dahlheimer, drummer Chad Gracey and guitarist Chad Taylor, joined by a keyboardist and Kowalczyk's brother Adam on guitar -- also surveyed "Run to the Water," "They Stood Up for Love," "The Dolphin's Cry" and others from the disc. The crowd was receptive to the newer material, but reveled especially in the band's older songs, singing along lustily to "All Over You" and "Lightning Crashes," and pumping their fists in unison to "Selling the Drama."
Kowalczyk's vocals were outstanding throughout the set -- a good thing, since he rarely gave up the spotlight -- but were particularly fine as he rose to a falsetto on the sinuous "The Distance" and crooned a cover of John Lennon
's "Imagine" atop an equipment case just behind the sound board. The lilting "Dance With You" closed the set on a sweet note, offering a nice contrast to the band's characteristic intensity during the rest of the set.
The entertaining funk of opening act Galactic was largely lost on the late-arriving crowd. True, the New Orleans quintet is better suited for a sweaty, swinging club than a half-full amphitheater with the sun still out, but the band rose to the occasion with jaunty second-line rhythms, honking sax and the occasional vocals of Theryl "House Man" de Clouet (whose sartorial splendor alone justified the price of admission). Their set included "Black Eyed Pea" and "Baker's Dozen" -- two smoking instrumentals from their recent album Late for the Future
-- as well as the vocal number "Century City," a pleasingly gritty blues.
Written by DANIEL DURCHHOLZ for RollingStone.com News