Friday, September 26, 2008

"I sold my piano/It couldn't come with me..."

Long time coming, I know, but here ya go.

Three weeks ago, I left work a little early, and made my way up to the Woodlands Pavilion for the Counting Crows concert. I parked, and then hiked what seemed like miles to the venue. For those of you not from around here, the Woodlands Pavilion (or "Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion," as it's also known) is a huge outdoor amphitheater with covered seating (under what appeared to be a circus tent), uncovered seating, and an enormous lawn. I got lawn seats. I always enjoy the freedom of the lawn seats, but am never really prepared for the trek from the distant free parking lots to the venue.

I pass through the gates (with the weapons check that sadly has become a normal part of concertgoing), and checked out the first merch table, looking for a Crows tee-shirt. Now, I'm still a gigantic man, so I wasn't so much shopping for a shirt I can wear *now*, but something I can wear eventually. I'm gonna lose the weight. I promise you.

But no dice. They had a few XL's. That ain't gonna do it. I haven't worn XL shirts since middle school.

I climbed the three or four sets of stairs up to the lawn, and slowly made my way across the lawn to the other side of the venue and the "bigger" merchandise table. Sweat pouring, breathing laborious, I get to the other side to find that they only sent a few XL shirts, and nothing larger. Seriously? This is the South, man, home of fried EVERYTHING. You'd think these merchandisers would anticipate a chubbier crowd.

I settled for a tour poster and a keychain (which, incidentally, I can't find now; i need to clean my house). Then I grabbed a frozen lemonade (hey--I didn't have dinner, and they have Vitamin C, so it was okay; don't look at me like that!), and made my way back to the lawn.

I found a nice clear spot in the crowd, and plopped down just as Augustana was finishing their set. I heard their set while I was t-shirt hunting, and I liked it. I want to check out more of their stuff. Here's their big single, if you're not familiar.

I ate my frosty treat and waited for my friend Sara and her friends to arrive. Sara and her friend Katy arrived. I had a good time chatting with them while the stage crew changed out the instruments and set up the stage for the Crows.

Then, finally, their set began.

Now, i need to confess something: I wasn't sure how much I'd enjoy the show. See, I have been listening to the hype. I read scathing reviews of their newest album "Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings," and I even said to Sara a few days before, "Yeah, I haven't really enjoyed their latest stuff as much. I'm really going for nostalgia as much as anything." I figured I should get a tee-shirt because I wouldn't be willing to shell out money to watch my once-favorite band phone it in anymore.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

They played with energy, with passion. Sure, their music hasn't really grown much lyrically, but you cannot fault them for lacking faith in their own music. Adam sang the songs as if he still really believed everything he was saying. And it was so much fun.

The stage set-up was cool, a faux-brick-building backdrop with a clock at the top (a la Back to the Future) and screen-windows with different things back-projected on them.

I wish i could say more. I wish I hadn't put this off for three weeks. (Stupid hurricane.) The show deserved a passionate post, like the last one I saw did.

But I was reminded of something important that night: Don't let critics in magazines, or nay-sayers on the radio, convince you that your favorite band isn't cool anymore. Because when those notes play, and your heart leaps, you regret doubting. Maybe they aren't the greatest band in the world, but their passion, combined with your passion for their music, makes their show the greatest show ever.

A few quick notes:
--It cracks me up that my boss knows the actress Monica Potter (the subject of the song "Mrs. Potter's Lullabye").
--Adam said he wrote the song "Washington Square" about when he had to move either to or from NYC (i forget which, now). And it was such a poignant performance. That song became my favorite from the new album, and probably part of my top-ten Crows songs ever.
--The song "Good Time" has an interesting story. Adam told about how "a famous actress" got divorced and soon the tabloids were saying that she and Adam were secretly dating. He saw a magazine cover with this splashed across it, and said, "wow, that would have been cool, had we ever actual met." He never said who the actress was, but my friends and I have figured it out, I think. One of the lines in the song is, "I really like those red-haired girls..." The song was written prior to 2002, when the album was released. After about 20 minutes of feverish googling, I uncovered that US Weekly actually printed a rumor about Adam and actress Nicole Kidman, then recently divorced from Tom Cruise. And Kidman naturally has red hair, IIRC. At any rate, she was sporting red hair for "Moulin Rouge," which was filmed/released in 2001. So I'm convinced it was her.
--The first encore was "Rain King," which they performed with Augustana, who came out and did this a capella bluegrass thing. They sang harmony on the chorus of Rain King.
--Adam tossed in some improv-sounding lyrics in "Miami"--a song I've never been hugely fond of. However, I liked what he did.
--"Walkaways" is just a phenomenal closer. So much longing in that track, so much emotion. And it's only a minute and a half long, so it leaves you wanting more, which is perfectly appropriate.

Here's the playlist, copied from

Mrs. Potter's Lullabye
Richard Manuel
Daylight Fading
Mr. Jones
Washington Square
Good Time
Long December

Rain King (with Augustana, who sang a great a capella bluegrass intro)


I should probably comment on the rest of the show. The "headliner" was Maroon 5. I'm not a fan of Maroon 5.

I liked their first single "Harder to Breathe," and there are a couple of their tunes that get stuck in my head, but I'm not a fan, and their set reinforced it. Here's why:

1) Hello, oversexualized lyrics. I mean, dang, boy. And there were little girls at the show with their parents.

2) I'm convinced the lead singer/guitarist thinks he is Prince. He sings and moves like Prince. And the way he held his guitar gave me Super Bowl flashbacks. And the purple--everything was PURPLE. Lights, banners, everything. Purple.

3) The screaming girl factor. I've talked about this in the past regarding John Mayer (hey, remember him?), but it's even more in effect with this show. Especially with Mr. Sexy-sexy on stage.

4) The couple in front of me were dancing so close together they could have been wearing the same pair of pants. Gross. I know this isn't directly Maroon 5's fault (Budweiser had a hand in it too), but I'm blaming them anyway based on #1.

5) The fact that they're headlining ahead of Counting Crows. Yes, I'm petty like that. Jerks.

Thankfully I had Sara and Katy around to help me make fun of everything.

I will give the Maroon 5 guy credit (no, I'm not even gonna look up his name). He sang a cover of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game." Great song. Granted, he didn't hit the falsetto on the chorus, but he hung in there. So I'll (begrudgingly) give him props for that.

(BTW, if you don't grok "Wicked Game," you should check out the song on iTunes. However, the original Chris Isaak video is totally scandalous, so I can't in good conscience link it directly. Here's less scandalous but decidedly more frightening cover by a goth-rock band.)


Some Crows video. First, from the show I saw:

And then, from a week later on the tour:

Awesome. What a great show.

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