Concert Review: Counting Crows / Dashboard Confessional @ SPAC, 07/05/2023
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Counting Crows returned to Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Wednesday night with an outstanding solid set from start to finish, giving fans something to crow about on this hot summer night. Opening act Dashboard Confessional heated up the stage for the Crows, which was still sizzling from the humidity of the July night.
Dashboard Confessional fans screamed like high school students as the opener played through their set of love songs, mostly about heartbreak, offering Chris Carrabba the chance to show that his vocal range is still astounding. The band’s sound on stage felt a bit raw and untamed, and with some sour notes in vocal harmonies a few times, emerged as a bit tedious as the night wore on. With a set list that sounded remarkably homogenous, Dashboard Confessional still drew in a large number of dancing, singing fans, many of whom knew each line and sang their hearts out along with the band.
The Counting Crows’ entrance after Dashboard Confessional offered a smooth juxtaposition to the cacophony just before them with “Sullivan Street.” The San Francisco band you might remember most from the mid-1990s with hits “Mr. Jones” and “Round Here” are clearly still working well together using their tried and true formula of authentic vocals, stunning guitar playing, and bluesy rhythms.
Vocalist Adam Duritz sat down on stage close to the audience while singing “Mr. Jones” with audience support on the chorus fairly early into the set, signaling the singer’s willingness to be not only vulnerable in his performance but also charmingly joyful in his connection with the audience.
The band is well known for its personal lyrics about moving through depression, anxiety, and the complexities of the human heart. Duritz’s narrative about lost love, regrets about not sharing more, and questioning “what ifs” resonated with the crowd, who hushed to listen to his words over an instrumental backdrop mid-song on a cover of Jackson Frank’s “Blues Run the Game.”
By mid-set, when the band played their well-loved cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi,” the band held the audience with complete, rapturous attention.
Unlike most bands from the late 1990s and early 2000s who return to play their most famed songs, The Counting Crows demonstrated a tightness to their set that was fresh and renewed the energy of the original songs. Unafraid to play with their own original writing, the band’s setlist thoughtfully moved fans through old and newer songs with open hearts and a clear goal of connecting to the audience.
The Counting Crows have been criticized in the past for “too much change” in their songs when performing for live audiences, but this setlist was not only a solid nod to the past but a fan’s delight in uniqueness. They clearly do not play with a backtrack and rely upon artistic intuition and communication between musicians on stage. It was an original night of music, daring and bold as much as vulnerable and authentic.
Unlike many older bands, the Crows offer listeners a new way to experience them — one that only the live experience can deliver.