September 3, 2014 Counting Crows & Toad the Wet Sprocket A Magical Evening at The Greek Theatre Los Angeles, CA 8/17/2014
The 90’s Alternative scene featured an array of artists with distinct styles and sounds that define a generation. Two noteworthy bands from the era include fellow Californians Counting Crows and Toad the Wet Sprocket. With a combined twenty-two Top 50 US charted singles between them, the announcement of a summer tour featuring both bands turned the heads of many as they made their way across the USA. Closing out their tour at the award winning The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, CA on Sunday August 17th, there was not an empty seat to be found as concert goers gathered for an evening of music in the open air venue.
Warming up the stage at 7 PM sharp was an alternative rock band from Baraboo, Wisconsin called Daniel and the Lion. Constructed as a three-piece with Daniel Pingrey on keys, Jimmie Linville on vocals/guitar, and Michaela Thomas on vocals/organ, they played an appetizing set for the audience featuring songs of their latest album Death Head. With soft and melodic compositions filled with harmonic vocals, the band made the most of their first big tour seeming honored and grateful. Fans of well-crafted alternative rock tunes should check out this independent act and get in on the ground floor before they blow up.
Next up was Santa Barbara, CA based Toad the Wet Sprocket. Reunited since 2006, the band has partaken in regular touring year after year to the praise of a strong fan base that has certainly yearned for new material. While the core of vocalist/guitar Glen Phillips, guitarist/vocalist Todd Nichols, bassist/vocalist Dean Dinning, and drummer Randy Guss waited until the time was right to create new music, New Constellation has given followers everything they wanted and more.
Opening up with “Something’s Always Wrong”, the band took a short pause as Phillips had to rewire his equipment apologizing, “It’s the last day of the tour and everyone wants to play pranks on one another.” After a few laughs, everything was fixed and it was smooth sailing from there. The crowd was enjoying every minute of the set as they sang along with their favorites including “Good Intentions”, “New Constellation”, “Come Back Down”, and “Nightingale Song”. Always warm and affectionate, Toad The Wet Sprocket’s music filled the air and reminded everyone of how special the band really is. Concluding their strong thirteen song set with “All I Want”, “Fall Down”, “California Wasted”, and fan favorite “Walk on the Ocean”, everyone cheered in appreciation as they walked off the stage. While the hiatus to explore other projects allowed each member to grow as musicians, it is clear in 2014 they are stronger than ever and absence surely made the heart grow fonder.
Sharply at 9 PM, Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me” resonated through the cool summer breeze as the Counting Crows slowly emerged on the stage one by one. Together since 1991, the band’s debut album, August and Everything After (1993), laid the groundwork for what has been a great career filled with one success record after another. Kicking off the set with 1994 track “Round Here”got the party started on the right note. The feeling of being in a time warp dawned upon the audience as singer Adam Duritz looked ageless and sounded exactly the same as he did two decades earlier. Weeks prior to the release of their seventh studio record Somewhere Under Wonderland, the band gave fans a first listen to tracks like “Elvis Went to Hollywood”,”Earthquake Driver”, among others. Appealing with upbeat rock-n-roll sound, the rhythmic guitar work of David Byson, David Immerglück, along with strong lead guitar solos of Dan Vickrey, really brought the new tracks to life.
Mixing in a tribute to the late Lou Reed they played a great cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes” before Duritz introduced another new song titled “Scarecrow” which was in fact a the band’s own personal remembrance of the legendary musician. The song was shortly followed by “God of Ocean Tides” which Duritz conveyed to the audience it was the first song the band had written together in some years. Showcasing their multi-instrumental talents, the audience was very entertained to see the mandolins, pianos, and accordions on the stage for different portions of the performance. One of the brightest moments of the evening, besides hearing everyone sing along with their favorite tune “Mr. Jones” early on, was when they rolled out a piano on stage and Duritz broke out singing “A Long December” accompanied by Charlie Gillingham on accordion. The intimate moment helped wind down the already exciting set which concluded with another new track, “John Appleseed’s Lament”, along with earlier hit “A Murder of One. Completely enthralled in the set, the audience waited patiently as they knew the set was far from over and Counting Crows emerged again for an encore of “Palisades Park”, “Rain King”, “Holiday in Spain”, before partaking in a ear-tingling sing along of The Mamas & The Papas’ “California Dreamin’” that had every voice in The Greek Theater amplified.
Counting Crows are a band whose soulful sound never gets old. They rock just hard enough to keep the groove of the crowd moving and have the right amount of sensitive to capture the senses. This was a perfect way to spend a Sunday evening and testament to the band’s longevity in music.