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Concert Reviews:
Counting Crows, Wallflowers host potent 4th of July party at Meadow Brook
 

By GARY GRAFF
@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

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ROCHESTER HILLS -- Things were considerably different, at least on the commercial tip, when Counting Crows and the Wallflowers last played the Detroit metro area, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, 16 years ago.

Back then both groups were enjoying the fruits of multi-platinum albums and multiple hit singles. The joint tour was one of the highlights of that summer. But even though neither group is in the same sales league these days, their show on Thursday, July 4, at the Meadow Brook Music Festival showed the pairing was still potent as each band delivered solid -- and in the case of Counting Crows, spectacular -- Independence Day sets for a crowd decked out in all manners of red, white and blue attire.

Jakob Dylan and his Wallflowers crew kept the focus on performance rather than personality with a nimble 55-minute, 12-song set that started out with a nod to Motown -- Marvin Gaye`s "Baby Don't Do It" -- and also covered the Box Tops/Joe Cocker hit "The Letter" and the Rolling Stones' "Loving Cup" amidst selections from the group's own catalog. The quintet hit all the highlights, including "Three Marlenas" and "6th Avenue Heartache," and mined deep for true-fan favorites such as "Closer to You," "8 Count" and "Letters From the Wasteland."

And with some urging from Dylan, the receptive but reserved crowd finally got on its collective feet for the one-two closing punch of "One Headlight" and "The Difference."

They were up from the get-go for Counting Crows, however -- hardly surprising since the California septet was a) the headliner and b) had the temerity to open its 21-song, two-hour set with its first and biggest hit, "Mr. Jones." But the key to Counting Crows' success is in the deft ebb-and-flow of its repertoire and a deep relationship with fans who were as familiar with the likes of "St. Robinson in His Cadillac Dream," "When I Dream of Michelangelo," "Good Time" and "Richard Manuel is Dead" as they were with more popular fare such as "Omaha," "Catapult," "A Long December," "A Murder of One," "Hanginaround" and an emotive, nine-minute rendition of "Round Here."

Highlighting this year's show also were covers -- not only the Grateful Dead's "Friend of the Devil" and Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" but also selections from the group's 2012 album "Underwater Sunshine...," including stylized versions of the Romany Rye's "Untitled (Love Song)," Kasey Anderson's "Like Teenage Gravity," Fairport Convention's "Meet Me on the Ledge," and Tender Mercies' "Four White Stallions."

Frontman Adam Duritz, who sweated his way through a selection of vintage T-shirts from Ramones, Killers and Devo tours, was in a jovial mood throughout the show, providing occasional song introductions and discussing a drink called Nerds that the road crew prepared for him late in the show.

The significance of the show date wasn't lost and Duritz and company, either. After discoursing on the need for people to participate in the U.S. political system -- particularly by voting -- and giving shout-outs to the AIDS Partnership of Michigan and Care House of Oakland County -- the Crows closed with Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," a conclusion fitting to both the occasion and to the bucolic Meadow Brook surroundings.

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