Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz took off his black glasses and gazed into the crowd as if the weight of what he was about to sing needed more focus than his glasses offered.
“In all this time, the bottom line / You don't know how much I feel,” he sang and his words hung in the chilly night air over Casino del Sol’s AVA like a gentle breeze.
That moment brought chills up your spine. It was genuine, heartfelt and a little frightening when you consider the demons Duritz has battled throughout his 20-plus years with this multiplatinum-selling San Francisco folk-rock band.
Over the past couple years, Duritz has been open about his mental illness. And if you had not heard about it, he was quick to let you in on the secret, introducing the band’s cover of Coby Brown’s “Hospital” by saying it was his “going crazy song.”
Throughout the night, Duritz, his thick blanket of matted dreadlocks flopping this way and that, alluded to his illness with doses of humor. As he transitioned from “Hospital” to the similarly themed “Speedway,” he admitted he was at a loss to explain how they fit together, “If I stand up here and make fun of myself a couple more seconds, this will all make sense,” he joked.
But the audience that barely filled a third of the 5,000-seat amphitheater did not come to hear about Duritz’s demons. They came to hear his voice, sorely missing from a Tucson stage for several years. It is warm and familiar, like the favorite blanket you pull up around your chin as the low-desert chill of a mid-November night sets in. When Duritz sings, he pulls you into his world and gives you little reason to want to leave.
Duritz and Counting Crows traversed their catalog, making brief stops along the way at “ August and Everything After” (“Sullivan Street”) “Hard Candy” (“Four White Stallions”) and “Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings” (“Cowboys”).
But they spent a big chunk of their 90-minute show with their latest release “Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation),” a collection of cover songs that included “Hospital” and a remarkable country-esque take on Gram Parson’s “Return of the Grievous Angel.” Duritz, a remarkable songwriter, seemed to take pleasure in telling other peoples stories.
A highlight of the show was a stripped down, slower-tempo version of “Accidentally In Love,” the song Duritz wrote as a theme for the movie franchise “Shrek.” Curiously missing from the setlist was the band’s monster hit “Mr. Jones” or the followup “Round Here.”
Review: Counting Crows at Casino del Sol’s AVA Friday.