Sunday, August 1, 2010

Counting Crows at the Borgata

I'd been passing the Counting Crows billboard every day on my way to work and was on the fence about getting tickets. On one hand, I was tempted because they are one of my favorite groups. I probably listen to their greatest hits album, Films About Ghosts, more than any other CD in my collection, and I know all the songs by heart. On the other hand, I'd heard that their live performances were kind of strange. They liked to spontaneously change the tunes and lyrics of their songs and often invited other bands to perform with them. But in the end I decided to go. I wanted to see what went down for myself.

The Borgata Event Center was as packed as I'd ever seen it last night. But that shouldn't have surprised me. The Counting Crows were one of the most influential and popular alternative rock bands to come out of the 1990s.

A woman sitting next to us asked the bf if anyone was opening for them. He said he didn't know, but that no one else was listed on the tickets. She went on to say that she'd heard that there would be other bands there, but that she should "wait it out." Then she said that she hoped they'd be as good as they were ten years ago. She seemed kind of anxious about it.

Minutes later the room erupted with the signature raucous "dee-dee-deedee-deedee-dee-dee deedee-deedee" of circus music, and I remembered something else I'd heard: the Counting Crows always called their tours "The Traveling Circus."

What happened after that was confusing. They opened with a song I didn't know, segued into "Recovering the Satellites," played more songs I didn't know, did "Anna Begins" and "Mr. Jones" and then gave the floor to one of the other artists they had with them -- a rapper. Now, Counting Crows music is melancholy and thought-provoking and folksy and sad, so to hear it intermingled with rap was disconcerting. Several people, including our neighbor, left the theater.

I think, despite everything I'd heard, that some part of me really expected them to get up there and play Films About Ghosts, song for song. So, I was a little angry that that wasn't happening. But I wanted to keep an open mind.

They finished with alternate renditions of "The Long December," "Hangingaround," and "The Rain King," just as my research reported they would. They did not play "Round Here," my favorite, at all. Yet the flashes of songs I recognized were amazing, more moving than any I'd heard performed live.

The whole thing made me think. Maybe, after roughly twenty years, the Counting Crows had grown tired of singing the same songs in the same way. I mean, I think that would make me tired. Maybe they were trying to challenge themselves. Or, maybe their concerts reflected how they truly liked to perform and the stuff on their CDs was the product of their record label. Then again, maybe I was reading too much into it (as usual) and they were just having some fun.

This week, I'll be listening to Films About Ghosts.

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