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July 13, 2010

Concert review: Counting Crows at Pier Six Pavilion

counting crows front man adam duritzMidnight Sun correspondent Patrick Gavin saw the Counting Crows and Augustana perform last night at Pier Six Pavilion. Here is his review:

Last night's Counting Crows and Augustana concert had a lot in common with Sunday's World Cup final: Two "teams" giving it their all, an endless sense of anticipation throughout, little in the way of highlights -- though most who stayed 'til the end left satisfied -- and a last-minute heart -breaker of a goal by Andres Iniesta.

Wait ... forget that last thing. I botched my Venn diagram.

Put it this way: The smart fans for both spectacles were the ones who took their pre-gaming seriously and showed up at halftime.

For the second year in a row these two acts brought their "Traveling Circus and Medicine Show" to the area – this time Pier 6 Pavilion – in an unconventional but utterly welcome format. ...

Here is a link to a photo gallery from the show.

Initially both bands and all the backup musicians – that includes everyone from accordion and ukulele players to a white rapper – took the stage. Then, throughout the 28-song, three-hour set, a rolling group of performers from both camps hopped on and off stage with a 15-minute break in the middle.

Little of note happened before or immediately after that intermission. Augustana singer Dan Layus rolled out the piano and serenaded the crowd with "Boston," the California band's biggest hit to date. The Counting Crows notably played "Mrs. Potter's Lullaby." But nothing shaggy front man Adam Duritz, Mr. Layus, several bonafide guitar solos, the accordion player or even the barely legal Pocahontas-looking nymph dancing in the cheap seats could do seemed to lure more than one-third of the crowd to their feet.

NOTAR! NOTAR!Last year Sam wrote a review and took exception with the show"s "Circus" labeling, suggesting words like "hootenanny" or "jamboree" were more apt. Early in the show, under the Pier 6 tent, the words "failed rock & roll revival" seemed most suitable for this reincarnation.

However, the Medicine Show's revitalizing tonic came from two seemingly unlikely sources.

First, the aforementioned rapper, Notar, hit the stage for the second time, bringing a dose of adrenaline (name-checking Ray Lewis and sporting a Ravens tee didn't hurt) even while spitting sheer nonsense ("Blap, blap, blap ... 'Cuz I'm a matador!").

Stylistically, Notar was a blend of Mike Shinoda and Zack de la Rocha, though just to rein it in from such lofty comparisons, bear in mind that at one point he rhymed "Counting Crows" with "counting hoes." Consider me entertained! Signed to Duritz's record label, Notar was often seen raising a beer to no one in particular or throwing one of his many towels into the audience.

The show's second shot in the arm came in the form of a song the Counting Crows hadn't played all tour but dusted of for obvious reasons: "August and Everything After's"  "Raining in Baltimore." Even Mr. Duritz admitted it was pandering, but hey, it worked.

From here on out it was a steady stream of hits ("Long December," "Hangingaround," "Rain King"), reprisals of those hits, and a few irresistible sing-along covers of the likes of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and most agreeably "With a Little Help From My Friends," sung more akin to Joe Cocker than Ringo.

Even without "Mr. Jones" (an omission I’m just fine with), I'm all right with grudgingly granting this show "hootenanny" status.

(Baltimore Sun photos by Algerina Perna)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:55 AM | | Comments (30)
Categories: Concert reviews


how could they not play mr jones. i was at the show last night and was less than impressed.....

Smashing Pumpkins? Counting Crows? What year is this again?

Thanks for telling us who that rapper was. I thought he was a bizarre addition to the show and could've done without him and his antics. I would've liked to hear more songs, and maybe shorter versions of some they did play - was more of a jam session than a concert.

I thought NOTAR sounded and "rhymed" exactly like any other 15 year-old kid who thinks he can rap.

On the bright side, NOTAR provided awesome bathroom breaks throughout the show. Unfortunately, he was forced upon me while he stepped in to completely ruin Hanging Around.

I do think that Augustana added some good depth to some of the songs. For example, one highlight was definitely the full band version of Omaha.

that was the worst concert i've ever been to. i agree with KKMT, it was more of a jam session. pathetic attempt at rain king...i wanted to hear adam duritz sing the song, not some other guys. and they didn't even play the crowd jones. pathetic attempt at a concert. i can say with certainty that i will never again support the counting crows...utterly dissapointed

All Counting Crows ever does is a Jam session. I saw them years ago and vowed never again. I like their songs but not their concerts. They didn't do a single song as is. I particularly remember a very slow version of Mr Jones that dragged on forever. I'm all for mixing it up a bit and not just performing the CD but they take it a bit far.

I'm a bit baffled still by this peculiar experience....I'm all about good music, even if it's not exactly what I signed up for. But, good god....this was pretty pitiful spectacle for the most part. The bouncy, hyper-ecstatic Eminem knock-off zapped the chilled atmosphere that I believe Counting Crows fans are seeking... Less than pleased. Disappointed I spent the $$$ when I could've sat outside on the water and listened for free, with a great water view nonetheless.

Actually, the Counting Crows are capable of a good concert. There Live in Amsterdam album is very enjoyable.

I was hoping for more of that last night. Oh well.

That concert stunk. So glad I sat next to the Marriott enjoying cheap booze rather than spending any money on it.

Notar backwards is Raton, that must be his father's name.

That was one of the weirdest concerts I've ever attended. I suppose I should have done some research ahead of time and been better prepared. But I was completely baffled when in the middle of the Counting Crows' set, Duritz left the stage and some Nick Markakis doppleganger took the mic and launched into a 311 wannabe act along with a dude from Augustana. We eventually figured out his name was Notar thanks to Twitter. This was confirmed by the fact that his keyboardist (not to be confused with the 3 other keyboardists he shared the stage with) was wearing a Notar shirt. Nice.

In retrospect, with 17 musicians up on stage at the same time, I probably could have gotten past security and joined the band if I had a Notar shirt and a tambourine. I seriously doubt security would have noticed.

@BA -- You should have hopped on stage and yanked on one of Adam's dreadlocks while yelling CHOO CHOO! That would have been worth getting kicked out.

Gang, this is par for the course at a Crows show. The band seldom play songs as they appear on their albums. Often the hits turn into long jams, where one song turns into another and loud guitar rifs turn into accordion/banjo solos. For a lot of fans they are a tough act to take, esp after loving the songs as they are played on the radio.
That said, I've seen the band about 20 times over the years and they've sorta morphed into what Dylan's band is. Offering different takes on songs you already know, by incorporating new musicians into the fold.
Notar was just trying to fill the void that Spearhead held during last Summer's tour and inject some energy into the set. Very tough to replace someone as talented as Michael Franti.

I would actually disagree. I saw Dylan play a couple of years ago at ACL and he didn't seem to stray too far away from what has made him a legend. Of course there were variations here and there, but he didnt stoop so low as to have Kanye West come out and rap in the middle of Highway 69.

I enjoyed most of the Counting Crows' set. I actually didn't think they changed up there songs that much. I also think that Augustana was a great addition to the songs.

I do think NOTAR didn't gel with the vibe of the music and could be thought of as taking away from the feel of the show.

People who don't pay to go to concerts, i.e., many of the commenters who posted here who are too cheap to pay for anything, apparently, shouldn't be allowed to complain. I support musicians by buying their CDs (or downloading their songs legitmately)and at least try to buy the best seats in the house. I thought last night's concert was completely fun. Notar was an exciting jolt and Augustana's lead singer and Adam sang wonderful harmonies. Thanks, Counting Crows for inspiring me year after year!

I guess I was prepared because I'd heard some other Crows live stuff before going to the concert. I don't get how anyone would leave that concert and say it was the "worst concert" they'd ever been to. I guess they don't go to many concerts. Don't even start with people getting a free show across the water complaining. Did the Crows change things up for the live show? Sure, but nothing was unrecognizable. I thought the sound was mostly good. The Notar was weird just because I don't get the clash of styles, but Augustana meshed well. I was hoping to hear a couple of Crows hits they never played (esp. Hard Candy), partly to hear what they would do different with them in a live show. "Omaha" and "Recovering the Satellites" stood out as particularly good. They were on the stage for a good long show compared to some concerts I've been to.
I think it's fun when crowds kind of explode, so that's why I would have liked them to play to the crowd a bit more with some of the big hits, but it's wrong to say the music wasn't good. If you like live music, not lip syncing karaoke, that show was cool.

not sure this tool was even at the show

I think Jess may have been the only one of you who actually saw the show...

the crowd was lame; the show was great.

Notar was exactly what the stage needed to balance the Counting Crow's songs. The tour is called the traveling you get it? It's a myriad of musicians collaborating to entertain us. All the musicians, with their unique approach to each song, complimented each other well. Then again I was sitting 4th row and not at the Marriott. And btw, the rapper-Notar,, wasn't "trying" to be anyone, other than a talented musician. His freestyle during Crow's classic "Hangin Around" was not only entertaining and energizing, but attests to the talent this kid possesses. Lookin forward to catching them again in Atlantic City.

I was at this show as well and I paid good $$$ to sit about 10 rows back thinking that I would love to see Counting Crows at least once in a really great setting with my girlfriend nonetheless. It started out nice with some counting crows songs (like 2) and then immediately spiraled down to crap from there. I will say this straight out just to get it out of the way. Who the hell is Augustana and why should we care about them? They SUCK .. period. The lead singer is this rascally little guy that looks like he is twitching from drug addiction the entire time. His voice sounds like someone chopped his [ahems] off. His song lyrics were awful (and I listened to them all) .. This one song he sang called "Fire" he had a lyric that he said something like "Take me to your bedroom, i'll make you [arrive] all night" ... That guy looks like a creepy child molester and I am pretty sure he wouldn't ever get a woman to his bedroom without being in a band. Sometime after my ears were hurting from Augustana, they bring out this talentless hack called "Notar". Thank you Counting Crows, now my ears are bleeding. I was beginning to wonder if I had even paid for a Counting Crows show. I was in complete and udder disappointment. This rapper was god-awful and I have to listen to this instead of one of the nicer sounding Counting Crows songs. Finally, after wanting to cut my ears off ala-Van-Gogh style, Adam and the crew are back up singing again. The highlight of the night was him singing "Raining in Baltimore" when it was actually ... yep you guessed it... raining in Baltimore. He played maybe a few more songs (like 4-5) and then let the other bands play a TON more. They finished the show with a VERY long and drawn out "Hanging Around" (which is what I felt the other bands were doing wasting my time and money) and ended the show with "This land is your land" (which was pretty cool too) but even with those small tid-bits of "Hey I like this" I could have saved the $150 and sat out on one of the other piers with others drinking cheaper alcohol. F--k you Augustana, F--k you NoTar you talentless hack, and most of all F--k you Counting Crows for destroying what could have been a magical evening with my girlfriend. Guess what, you just lost a long-time fan that will pretty much never pay for anything your band ever does again.

"...udder disappointment."

Maybe it was really the Counting Cows that performed

On the Pier Six website ... for Sunday's Sublime show, it says "Sale Stopped" on the tickets page.

Any insight? Not "sold out" not "canceled" ... just "Sale Stopped"

Can you do your reporter thing and get to the bottom of this?

there are a few of these so-called fans that i would love to see up close and in person cause i would love to have words with them. they want to pick on various musicians and i think that they need a reality check. let them try to do what these guys do on a tour, then they would have an idea how hard they are actually working to keep this tour working. if you didn't like it fine but don't slam all the musicians just because you didn't like the format and personal attacks on any one artist/musician must not be tolerated.

I can see why some people would be disappointed if they were just going to see the Counting Crows -- but Augustana was awesome (Dan Lyrus the lead singer was very Bob Dylan-ish) and NOTAR WAS SIMPLY AMAZING.

Take him off the Crows tour and then judge him. His free-style rap at the end of the show was unbelievable. He got the crowd going and set the tone. Unfortunately maybe it wasn't his crowd. But Duritz signed him and is backing him and he's going to be a huge success. I loved the show.

the counting crows should tour alone. this was an abomination of grand proportions. i am so sad. the crows are so good and talented. for them to abandon that is horrible. i could climb on stage and do better with them belting out the paens of my youth to their offerings instead of some clashing noise that the other guys give. shame on adam duritz. adam, do you need to find what you have lost? give a small setting tour then. don't do this anymore. please!!!!!!!

Did you people go to the same one I did? I had a wonderful time. I have seen them play before and it was just as enjoyable. For all of you wanting Mr. Jones, im sorry to tell you but they don't really play it anymore. Mostly because everyone knows it. Same reason they don't play Accidentally in Love. Maybe you should listen to more than one song by them. And of course Counting Crows changed up their songs. All musicians do that. Have you ever been to a concert before? Augustana too. The acoustic version of Sweet and Low is better than the original. And NOTAR wasn't bad. Sure, he wasn't the same genre of Counting Crows or Augustana, but he definitely got the crowd going. Oh and Boomer, get off the rag and shut up.

Rock and Roll shows aren't suppose to be studio cd's you ... haters. By calling notar an eminem hack is so original. That took a lot of thought really. its 2010 and you see a dude with white skin and you say eminem hack???? ... NoTar prolly gettin money and you broke ... sit on forums and talk ... Notars father died of leukemia when he was twelve if you read his bio. For someone to call his father "raton" is utterly disrespectful. Eat A ...

Enjoyed the concert overall...

Agree that the second half was far superior to the first.

Disagree with the idea that, "just like last year," it failed to meet expectations. Last year's show at Merriweather was brilliant.

I think much of the flop was on the part of the crowd... many of whom were not nearly into it.

I hate seeing things like "Augustana played too much." They played perhaps 5 songs of theirs. Five.

Show felt short compared to the 4 hours they did at Merriweather last year.

Finally - I know many people don't like the 'mixing it up' that CC do, but I personally love it. If I wanted to hear it all exactly the same, I'd listen to the CD. Which I do, of course.

But ... go find modern versions of "Round Here" (like on VH1 Storytellers)... go listen to "Rain King" (with Thunder Road) on iTunes Live... they do some amazing things with their music. The twists on "Rain King" this year were nice. The twist on "Omaha" was great too - harmonizing behind the second verse and turning the band down.

The music was great. The vibe fell flat. But let the band be the band. And let guys like Augustana get in the mix - Dan Layus has some interesting stuff to add to CC classics.

I'm glad I only purchased lawn seats, to bad it didn't rain longer. One of the worst conerts I've been to. Counting Crows should have played more known songs & toured alone. I saw them a couple of years ago at Ripken Stadium & I thought that was an okay show, but that was way better.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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