LEWISTON – When a band’s had over 20 years worth of shows, casual listeners and committed fans alike cannot expect every one of its performances to be perfection. For evidence of this reasonable assertion, see Counting Crows’ last visit to Western New York.
Back in June of 2013, the Adam Durvitz-led collective rolled into a soaked Canalside, made fans wait in the pouring rain for a delayed performance, then finally appeared for a truncated, “Mr. Jones”-less set that ended with Durvitz and Co. deciding against an encore. Needless to say, that evening’s crowd – drenched with downpour and draft Labatt Blue while showering the show’s abrupt conclusion with boos – did not go home happy.
But Wednesday night, the Berkeley-born Crows made amends for the aforementioned appearance, serving up an expansive, diversified set list of new offerings and old favorites under the pavilion at Artpark n Lewiston.
Now touring off last year’s “Somewhere Under Wonderland,” the band continues to produce the same brand of country-tinged, Horde Fest-ready rock it’s been serving since entering national rotation in 1993 with Columbia House catalog favorite, “August and Everything After.” Propped up by mandolin-accented singles like “Rain King” sung by the band’s whirling dervish of a dreadlocked frontman, the album connected with listeners who stacked Gin Blossoms discs next to R.E.M.’s “Out of Time.” But with the video for “Mr. Jones,” Durvitz became the bouncing brand of a band whose vivid lyrics evoked comparisons to those of Van Morrison.
Seven albums in, he’s still its hirsute focal point, handling his duties with both a poet’s flair or, at times, ambivalence. Wednesday’s Lewiston show gave the night’s crowd flashes of both, but far more of the former than the latter.
The band’s opener of “Rain King” — which has typically been featured as part of the tour’s encore — was a perfect example of this dichotomy, as Durvitz started the song’s eight-minute live version inaudibly mumbling before steadying his oafish frame, sidling mandolin player Dave Immergluck and steering the ship. And that’s Durvitz: seemingly disinterested at one moment, then soaring and soulful the next.
Following hard-charging new track “Elvis Went to Hollywood,” Durvitz joined pianist Charlie Gillingham to carry another sprawling tune, the gorgeous “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby.” With select lyrics flashing behind drummer Jim Borgois on a Lite Brite-like screen, Durvitz stashed any previous indifference and emphatically led the standing crowd through the tune’s narration.
But as quickly as the show’s mood was infused with the previous song’s crowd participation, it was toned down with the white-lighted “Colorblind.” Standing solo and shadowed at center stage, Durvitz nakedly emoted as those relating sat back and absorbed. These moments likely made many in the crowd who’d previously shivered with the band off the Buffalo River forgive the experience. But as Durvitz revealed early on, the band didn’t forget the performance, either.
“We were trying to think of the last time we were around here, and it was during that torrential (expletive) rainstorm,” he said before his band’s performance of “Omaha.” “And all of y’all stayed out there all night long.”
And Wednesday night, many came back — and stayed dry through the encore of “Hanginaround.” All is forgiven.
Before Counting Crows, early arrivals got a taste of two acts that probably should have switched slots on the schedule. Queens, NY’s Hollis Brown, kicked off the evening, but with the lanky artist’s (and backing quartet’s) acoustic-led electric ramble on tracks off their latest release, “Three Shots,” the band seemed a likely transition into the sound of Durvitz and friends. Instead, it was preceded by the morose deliveries and dorm classics of Citizen Cope, who dealt out past favorites like “Bullet and a Target.”