BluesFest: Counting Crows – London O2 Arena – Live Review *****

When Counting Crows were announced as part of Blues Fest I just about squealed and then panicked as clashed with Country Music Week and that night (Sunday) had an amazing line up at every show which included Darius Rucker, Eric Paslay and Jimmie Allen. Counting Crows won though as this was part of their 25th Anniversary tour and I had also never seen them live before.

Counting Crows have a hell of a career. Their lyrics are poetic and their music is melodically breathtaking.

The show had not sold out, this had no reflection on the artists but I heard a few people saying tickets were quite pricey. I have mixed feelings on this because bringing over US artists is incredibly expensive these days and with high calibre support acts such as Alison Krauss who is a headliner herself, it pretty much makes some kind of sense but it is also understandable why people weren’t happy.

Alison Krauss was not the only support act. The White Buffalo kicked off the evening with his country rock, blues stylings. I love White Buffalo. Jake has a very authentic sound and his vocals are raw and beautiful to listen to. In places he holds similarities to Eddie Vedder which no doubt went down well the Counting Crows fans whom many of which I am sure are also Pearl Jam fans.

Alison Krauss was joined on stage by a few members of Union Station and Sidney and Suzanne Cox of The Cox Family. Who doesn’t want to see Alison Krauss live? One of the most stunning and unique voices on the planet, to see her live is an experience never to be forgotten. Even if her music is not your thing, her vocals soar and you can feel every note sung.

I was unbelievably excited for Counting Crows as was my friend who is a pretty big fan. Counting Crows shows are often quite unpredictable set list wise and whispers of will they play Mr Jones or Mrs Potter’s Lullaby? are often heard. However, fans were not disappointed as they entered the stage playing Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby. The atmosphere was electric. It was fun to see so many happy faces in the crowd and excited fans singing along and interacting with the TALK TO ME part of the song.

Adam had already told me prior to the show that he would be sharing stories behind some of the songs as it was the anniversary tour. (Read our interview here). This made me excited of course because as a country fan, we love to hear the stories of how songs became and with the quirky, somewhat strange but wonderfully poetic lyrics of a Counting Crows song, it was nice to make sense of some of them. The stories Adam told were fascinating and I felt we were lucky to get some insight to his life. At times it was quite emotional and it made me really warm to him as a person. I know some people aren’t keen on the talking parts of a show but when an artist is open with fans and shares their stories it really is a special and rare moment.

There were so many outstanding moments throughout the night. Colorblind was breathtakingly good, completely mesmerising. The instrumental detail of that song is stunning. Adam told me during our interview that the band add their own stamp instrumental wise on songs and that is why they are credited as a songwriter and listening to Colorblind live, I understood the importance of that because the song would just not be the same without the instruments used. It was worth going to the show just for that song. I felt so emotional and this was an experience that I will never forget. I had chills.

Omaha was a particularly interesting story as Adam shared how he has lived all across the US and realised how each place is so different from the last – the lifestyle, the people, everything. Adam shares how he would sit in the back of their Gold Station Wagon (I believe) with blankets and books looking out the window and taking in the country. Adam also explains how they could never get a good recording of this song and how when Charlie (Gillingham) suggested the accordion he pretty much laughed it off until he realised just how genius and essential it was to the song –  again, proving how songwriting credits are just as important for the instrumentals as well as the lyrics.

Miami was a great story. Adam tells us of waiting for his then girlfriend at the airport and watching the sun set and the plane arriving and how it looked as if the plane flew directly into the sun. The story led into him singing what he was saying which then led to the song Miami. The speech and sung words before the song were powerful, raw and emotional.

Another great story was the story behind Round Here, I wish I could remember it all but I don’t but I do remember Adam giving us a long tale of growing up, something about a train track and working in low paid jobs just wanting to be heard music wise and how he is glad we all heard them (the band) and for some reason how we still hear them now, 25 years later.

The audience of course went wild when the intro to Mr Jones began. Again, this isn’t a track they always play live so everyone was very pleased and all sang along. One of their biggest songs, they do get sick of playing it, in fact earlier in the show Adam said how they add the odd cover on their set list as get sick of playing their own shit. With that, Adam explains how during every soundcheck they play this particular cover from one of his favourite albums and how they never play it in shows but will tonight and they went on to play Start Again by Teenage Fanclub.

Closing the show with Hanginaround, Adam gave a quick ‘see ya’ and left the stage. No one went anywhere and everyone cheered for an encore. Adam and the rest of Counting Crows returned to the stage to a massive applause.

Rain King was a very exciting part to the shows encore. Fans went mad and people from the back ran to the front excitedly. I would usually turn my nose up at front block invaders in a seated venue but at this point it was acceptable, somewhat essential to give Counting Crows that extra energetic send off. I also noticed peoole right at the very back really going crazy dance wise and shows how being at the back, it ain’t so bad as they always have the most fun.

The close of the show was Holiday In Spain. This was the perfect close and the atmosphere was wonderful and it felt as if we were all standing outside in an open aired arena. We all took a moment to really appreciate this band and their talent – everyone felt the love. It was over too soon and we wanted more! We could have stayed all night listenin, learning and enjoying.

What a show! Counting Crows proved their worth and why they have had a 25 year long successful career. This is a show that I will never forget. The band were exceptional as were Adam’s vocals and stage presence/crowd interaction. As someone who goes to a lot of shows this one was special, very special. The entire performance was incredibly captivating. Adam has a lot to say and I am so glad he said it at the O2 and not just in his music but his stories.

I hope this isn’t goodbye forever, we need them to come back soon.

4 replies »

  1. I love Counting Crows and this is the fourth time I’ve seen them so I really have some insight as a fan
    However I’m wondering if you were actually at the same gig!
    I have no issue with Adam talking about the songs but it goes on too long and is self indulgent. Most fans have heard the Miami story before as I did when they annihilated it a Brixton some years back at least this time we got one of my favourite songs delivered properly albeit with the overlong narrative breaking its joy.
    They could have got two more songs in with less talking.
    Next issue 1.5 hrs gig is very poor and especially when they have so many great songs
    Next issue, the band were great the guitar sounds were fantastic but why one of my favourite singers with his experience has such bad mic technique is beyond me. I couldn’t make out half of what he was singing and an additional reason for this is he insists not only on adapting the melody to distraction of every song but also the timing which leaves him unable to get the expression. Goodnight LA has one of my favourite all time melodic lines ‘what brings me down now is love but I can never get enough’ but he just didn’t deliver it. I just don’t understand why musicians insist on changing and ruining classic songs. Gilmour does it on the Time solo changing one of the all time great pieces for the worst.
    It’s such a shame for a band I love so much


    • Hey Jeremy. Thanks for the comment, always good to hear other views. This show seems to have had split opinions across the board. This was my first time seeing them so perhaps would have had a different opinion if had seen before. I knew that his amount of talking would not be for everyone especially when more songs can be put it. I do love to hear the stories though as had never heard then before but as someone who goes to a lot of gigs, if you have seen the artists before and they share same story it can be frustrating so I do understand. The sound was fine where we were sat but the O2 often has issues in some areas. I was really happy and loved it. Thanks for sharing though as it’s interesting to hear other opinions for sure.


  2. Hi and no disrespect I was specifically looking for a review to see what others thought and maybe I was in a duff spot
    I really love Adam and the band I was just in awe seeing Them again and was much better than Brixton some years back where the sound was truly awful
    I saw them at Wembley Arena ( not the stadium) back in about 2003 and it was probably in top 5 gigs I’ve ever seen the place went absolutely nuts from back to front


  3. Oh and btw Alison Krauss May just have one of the most amazing voices on the plant. Reminded me of the late Eva Cassidy. Mind you bit too country for me in places but sound musicians and harmonies were incredible


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