Counting Crows at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham – Review and Photos
Counting Crows are the quintessential 90s jazz/folk band. It was their smooth, bluesy undertones that graced the soundtrack of many films – including Shrek and Cruel Intentions. Their music gracefully walked the line between upbeat anthems and more heart-wrenched, cynical and antagonised tracks; theirs was a discography that became one of the most recognisable in the late 90s. Fast forward to 2015 and I was curious to what they would doat the Royal Hospital Kilmainham – yes, they had a cult following but would that pack out RHK that would also be stage to Kodaline and Beck? The fear with a band like this is that with a new album under their belt, Somewhere Under Wonderland, their classic tracks would be firmly pushed down the setlist in favour of their new stuff. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like their new stuff but it hadn’t become as engrained in my mind as songs like, ‘Accidentally in Love’ or ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ had been. Ultimately, you’re left waiting an hour to hear your favourite tracks whilst being aurally forced to wade through the new musical offerings. The other idea for some bands is to set the classics free right at the beginning, easing the crowd into what they’re familiar with – which is something I feel endears the audience to an old school band so I was eager to see what Counting Crows would do or whether they would, as per usual, do their own thing completely and shake up old and new.
If pathetic fallacy is a real thing, then the weather held optimism for the seven-piece’s performance. A mild day with sunlight shimmering across the grounds as hundreds invaded RHK to watch the Americans do their thing. True to what I had previously read, the band are still as fresh in their performance as they were in their heyday, with Adam Duritz casually stretching out his lyrics, the emotive quality of his voice lingering on every syllable, and slipping in an extra phrase or two just to make this concert a little unique. There was an initial pared down quality to their sound, and it was in these opening moments that one could see why they still draw the crowds they do.
There was something about how they initially started, their performance was exact down to the very last note but their demeanour seemed a little subdued whilst performing ‘Round Here’. Perhaps it was the weather or maybe even the fact that this year has already been a busy one for them, they seem to be a top billed act on the festival circuits this year. But as soon as they fell into their rhythm, particularly when performing ‘Mr. Jones’, everything seemed to fall into place for them, and, in one fluid movement, they went from being musicians on stage to a band. Duritz got so into the song that he completely inverted the lyrics, but the charm of the song was still there. It suddenly all gelled and it was clear that they weren’t jaded from all their years of touring; this is what they love to do. The audience clearly began to pick up on this and the spark of excitement was ignited the moment began to convey the slightest hint of enthusiasm. Their rendition of ‘Colorblind’ was so striking, a poignant way to break up and otherwise distinctly upbeat setlist. The masses began to sway and cheer with delight and when ‘Accidentally in Love’ began, they basically lost their minds. I can’t help but admit that in spite of the weather or anything else, the second you feel everyone else around you begin to ease into things and you feel the swell of jubilation, you become infected by it too. Suddenly, people were chanting and singing, almost drowning out Duritz and co., it’s a fantastic sight to witness.
I know the cynics will say that they’re a band that are past their prime, crystallised by the fame they received back in the late noughties, and that anyone but a die-hard fan would be stuck to name a song they’ve released in the last two years, but I think their new songs comfortably fitted in with their classics. Say what you want about who is up and coming and what their sound is, but Counting Crows are a live band. They work the stage like the pros they are and that’s no harm either, there’s a presence to their performance — a tangible quality that some new acts just don’t have. Moreover, they seem to be varying their sets in little ways from show to show, and Duritz is a fan of changing how each song sounds; vocally engaging in stream of consciousness and expecting the band to follow his lead, and it’s extremely enjoyable to watch a band still change it up like that. His manner as a frontman is interesting and whilst he doesn’t say much, when he does he is equal parts charming, humble, and quirky.
The fear with a band like this is that they’ll rely on reminiscence and nostalgia, but Counting Crows don’t seem to be focused on that. It seems like the moment they move out of the spotlight, they draw all their die-hard fans back in with some amazing live performances. They’ve cleverly learnt to intertwine their old and new tracks, and continue to make both feel fresh and relevant; in a month of festivals, Counting Crows seemed to give it their all.