THE ROCK REPORT: COUNTING CROWS @ RUTH ECKERD HALL (CLEARWATER, FL.)

As much as the Violent Femmes spoke to me as an angst/hormone riddled teenager, August And Everything After spoke to me as a 20 year old manchild struggling to find my way in an adult’s world. Over the years The Counting Crows and I have grown & matured together, and as a result I’ve never been ashamed to admit that I am indeed a Counting Crows fan. That said, until Monday night I’d never seen the band live, so when Creative Loafing started looking for someone to cover the show I jumped at the opportunity.

The warnings were sent out weeks in advance, this show was structured differently and you needed to be in your seat by 7:00, else you’d be missing the show. My brother and I complied by getting there at 6:15 and pounding 6 dollar whiskey drinks until the loud speakers said we had 5 minutes till show time.

The curtains rose and we were greeted with 18 musicians all playing on a single stage. The structure of the show featured The Counting Crows, Michael Franti & Spearhead and Augustana all playing on stage together, with musicians flowing on and off stage all night. This made the show 3 1/2 hours of nonstop music, with each band getting miniature sets alone and also connected via multiband collaborations…almost a live mix from band to band to band, if you will. The flow really kept me engaged while still allowing for times to go grab a fresh whiskey drink where you knew you weren’t gonna miss what you came to see (me = crows, my brother = franti).

The Crows ran through a collection of the songs you expected to hear and some you didn’t. Being a subscriber to the Jimi Hendrix theory of “if you wanted to hear the album you should have stayed home and listened to it”, I appreciated the fact that each song was given its own treatment live instead of just playing it the way you’re used to hearing it on cd and the radio. Conspicuously missing from the Crows’ setlist was “Mr. Jones” and “Perfect Blue Buildings”. While I was surprised at the absence of “Mr. Jones” I could understand and respect why they omitted it from the show, but I was admittedly disappointed in not getting to hear “Perfect Blue Buildings” in a live setting.

Michael Franti & Spearhead’s contribution to the night was largely based in a hiphop infused reggae sound that, while engaging enough, isn’t really my thing and I largely used their mini-sets for my whiskey breaks.

Augustana was the great unknown for myself and it was difficult to get a gauge on their music based on what little solo time they got during the show, but their performances while on stage with Franti and the Crows did impress me enough that did download two of their albums today (yes, i admit it…god killed two kittens today because of me).

As Andy (my brother) and I left Ruth Eckerd with a tipsy heads and muffled ears we both agreed that The Traveling Circus and Medicine Show was, in a word (or so), A Fucking Awesome Show and I doubt I’ll be missing the next Counting Crows tour.

Unless it comes to that p.o.s. amphitheater.

You can see more pictures courtesy of Traci May here.

Augustana – 20 Years
Michael Franti & Spearhead – Hello Bonjour
Counting Crows – A Long December

Augustana & The Counting Crows – Just Like A Woman (Live From Ruth Eckerd Hall)