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Story and Photos By Andy ArgyrakisAs one of the fastest shows to sell out during this season's stellar Ravinia Festival, Counting Crows was forced to add a second Chicagoland date to its current tour schedule. But as is the band's tradition, Saturday night's set and Tuesday's return trip were far from the same set lists, ensuring dedicated fans and casual observers alike were kept on their toes and able to experience the band at its most spontaneous and improvisational.
While it would be easy for the 20 million album sellers to rest on their laurels and simply press play on the jukebox for "Accidentally In Love," "American Girls" and its signature cover of Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi," those tunes were surprisingly absent during the second performance. Though some were surely disappointed at the omissions, the move cemented Counting Crows as a relevant act that refuses to be entrenched in '90s nostalgia, instead turning to the "Traveling Circus & Medicine Show" motif (with this particular show marking the emotional last night).
Now in its second year, the tour that also features frequent collaborations with organic rockers Augustana and rapper Notar is meant to be an ever evolving musical revue, occasionally addressing the band's commercial terrain, digging much deeper into its catalogue, often times transitioning towards a cover and sometimes allowing its bill mates to take center stage. Early full cast cuts like Van Morrison's "Caravan" and the Crows' "Omaha" switched between the band's affinity for electric and acoustic explorations, both wound around enthusiastic jam sessions.
Though "Mr. Jones" earned a fairly straight forward treatment, front man Adam Duritz took a seat behind the electric organ for the ballad "Long December," interjecting some extra soul into the already pleading lyrics. Speaking of blue-eyed soul, the entire gang tipped its hat towards the style yet again with an absolutely incendiary version of Joe Cocker's "Delta Lady," along with another mention of Van Morrison when recalling his gusty arrangement of Bob Dylan's already iconic "Just Like a Woman."
Yet it was the finale segment that found the best footing, starting with the headliners' smash single "Hangin' Around," accompanied by a massive hand clapping session and some good natured toilet paper roll tossing. "Rain King" served as a fitting follow-up before fading into The Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends," which proved to summarize the two and a half hour evening's spirit and serve as a worthwhile addition to Counting Crows and company's already varied catalogues.
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