Adam Duritz isn’t taking his return to touring for granted.
Leading Counting Crows through a career-spanning WTTS Rock On The River show Tuesday night, Duritz beamed in his role of focused, animated and good-natured storyteller.
The vocalist said Indiana’s humid weather didn’t bother him because it enhanced the feeling of being close to one another after so many months of isolation. Duritz also mentioned that being idle during the pandemic spurred him to start a Cameo profile for selling personalized videos ($150, if you’re interested). And he joked that getting back to singing detailed tunes such as “Round Here” made him resolve “to be less wordy with lyrics.”
Fortunately for listeners, it’s too late to trim the word count of “Bobby and the Rat-Kings” from current Counting Crows EP “Butter Miracle, Suite One.” As a descendent of knotty Bruce Springsteen classics “Rosalita,” “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” and “Spirit in the Night,” “Bobby and the Rat-Kings” vividly describes “some leather-wrapped Fender-strapped kid with a pick-finger twitch. He’s got a recipe for radio or rain; I don’t know which.”
In tandem with current hit “Elevator Boots,” “Bobby and the Rat-Kings” provided a theme of rock ’n’ roll dreams and realities for Tuesday’s performance. A fan is obsessed with music within the tale of “Bobby and the Rat-Kings,” and Bobby is depicted as doing what he can to survive life on the road on the expertly crafted “Elevator Boots.”
Elsewhere, Counting Crows reached back to 2002’s “If I Could Give All My Love (Richard Manuel Is Dead)” for a message of rock ’n’ roll mortality. Of course, the song that started it all for Counting Crows, “Mr. Jones,” is a wish for fame that became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The packed house at the newly renovated TCU Amphitheater at White River State Park knew it would be a crowd-pleasing night when Counting Crows performed “Round Here” and “Mr. Jones” as the first and third songs of the program.
Guitarists David Immergluck and Dan Vickrey and keyboard player Charlie Gillingham excelled at creating a big sound to accompany Duritz’s storytelling, with Vickrey supplying a particularly fierce Telecaster solo at the conclusion of “Recovering the Satellites.”
It’s worth noting Tuesday’s show served as the first “back to concerts” moment for many in the audience, and the venue all but levitated with joy during sing-along favorite “Rain King.”
One reason Duritz is coming up with strong material 28 years after the release of breakthrough album “August and Everything After” may be because he’s comparing notes with emerging songwriters such as Sean Barna and Matt Sucich – the supporting acts on Tuesday’s bill.
Philadelphia-based Barna has a strong grasp of ingredients heard in early-Springsteen epics, adding a dash of Lou Reed’s wild side expertise. Barna closed his set with “Modern Man,” from 2018 EP “Cissy”: “Sing the good songs, do the good drugs, turn the news off and love, love, love. I’m a modern man.”
The endearing Sucich won over listeners with the song “Saturn” from 2019 album “Thousand Dollar Dinners.” A slacker’s guide to not taking things too seriously, “Saturn” offers an answer to the question of what are you doing with your life: “It depends, because it’s all relative.”
Tuesday’s Counting Crows setlist
- “Round Here”
- “Mr. Jones”
- “If I Could Give All My Love (Richard Manuel Is Dead)”
- “Recovering the Satellites”
- “God of Ocean Tides”
- “Big Yellow Taxi” (Joni Mitchell cover)
- “Washington Square”
- “The Tall Grass”
- “Elevator Boots”
- “Angel of 14th Street”
- “Bobby and the Rat-Kings”
- “Rain King”
- “A Long December”
- “Holiday in Spain”