Counting Crows and Matchbox 20

Counting Crows, Matchbox Twenty close out Lakeview summer concert season

Review: The lead singers for the '90s rock acts have distinct approaches as to how to celebrate their familiar hits.

Darkness was beginning to fall on the final Lakeview Amphitheater concert of the summer as the crowd shuffled around, eagerly anticipating the first of the evening’s co-headliners. The lights then shut off abruptly, much to the delight of the audience and the opening piano chords of Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me” lingered against the backdrop of dusk.

Photo: Austin Henry Wallace
Rob Thomas opens Matchbox Twenty's set at the Lakeview Amphitheater Saturday with with "Real World."

Pockets of singers grew louder during the chorus, wrapping body parts around each other before cheers erupted as Counting Crows lead singer Adam Duritz and his bandmates emerged on stage.

The fading sounds of “just call on me brother” made way for the clanging guitar of “Sullivan Street,” and the theme of nostalgia was amplified – only with a more ‘90s feeling than Mr. Withers could offer.

Followed by “Hard Candy” and “Dislocation,” the trio of tunes made for a classic Crows’ show opener of bouncy and upbeat.

But Duritz’ steadfast softer side was certainly lurking. With the sun now completely set, Duritz launched into a hauntingly beautiful rendition of “Colorblind.”

“I am folding, and unfolded and unfolding,” Duritz harshly delivered as he visibly shook with emotion.

With the audience now firmly in his grip, Duritz took the opportunity to say hello to the thousands in attendance – something he forgot to do at last year’s visit at Syracuse.

I Forgot to Say Hi,” Duritz proclaimed as his next album title, perhaps a nod to last year’s mishap. “Apparently it’s the lyric I repeat the most this summer: so f---ing high.”

The co-headliners to the show, Matchbox Twenty, definitely didn’t forget to introduce themselves. The fellow ‘90s rockers come blazing into their 1998 single “Real World,” with Rob Thomas already amped having joined Counting Crows for their final song, “Rain King.”

“How we doin’ Syracuse?” Thomas belts during the opening guitar riff. A huge roar from the crowd lets him know they’ve been sufficiently warmed up.

Matchbox Twenty continued to bring the heat, belting out old classics “Girl Like That” and “She’s So Mean.” Thomas stopped after four songs to offer a proper introduction. He ranted about it being a special night on tour because the band has a “responsibility to have a good Saturday night.” The crowd delighted in the sentiment but then Thomas took a noticeably different route.

Instead of following his call to arms for a night to “celebrate life through music,” Thomas slowed the tempo of the concert with ballads “If You’re Gone” and “Hand Me Down.” While the former went down a treat, the latter somewhat disengaged the audience as chatter and boredom were heard throughout the album track from the album More Than You Think You Are.

This was something never felt during Counting Crows’ set. Duritz’ ability to time the final run of the set from “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” through “Hangingaround” had the crowd on their feet the entire time.

During that stretch, the band’s first huge hit, “Mr. Jones,” brought the most out of the estimated 11,000 in attendance. As soon as the opening riff began, the entire amphitheater was singing along at the top of their voices and dancing drunkenly in every isle.

That one song showed the perfect contrast between the two bands on Saturday night.

Duritz is a songwriter and a poet. Thomas is a performer. What Duritz does with his band, however, is gives the audience a unique experience by mixing up how his songs sound. The offbeat rhythm’s and manipulating vocals of Counting Crows’ most famous single still keep the essence of the song while sounding nothing like the record.

Thomas was note perfect – an admirable skill in itself – but during the wooden renditions of the ballads that lost the crowd, it was clear to see which band had poured their heart into the evening and which was ready to go through the motions of the supposedly special Saturday night.

Both bands filled the darkness with their own brand of brooding, esoteric, intelligent brands of music. The Crows just shone a little brighter.

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