Rob Thomas, Counting Crows bring back the ’90s
The opportunity to catch Rob Thomas and the Counting Crows co-headlining happens just once in Reno — on Sept. 11 at the Grand Theatre. Thomas, the former singer of Matchbox 20, and the Crows, with more than 20 million records sold worldwide, are on a two-month-plus tour together, which kicked off earlier this summer.
“Twenty years ago, Rob and I were like kids running around Italy in the middle of the night getting drunk and playing gigs,” Adam Duritz, the front man for the Counting Crows, said in a statement. “I still love nothing more than touring with my friends. This is going to be a great summer.”
This 40-stop tour includes a variety of shows all over the states, including in Tampa, Atlanta, Detroit and Cincinnati, with tour dates that continue on through the end of September.
From front man to solo artist
Duritz and Thomas announced their plans to co-headline together on tour with a promo on YouTube. Thomas, who has produced four albums with his band Matchbox 20, also went out on his own as a solo artist in 2005, after 10 years with the group. In that role of solo artist, he has produced three albums — in 2005, 2009 and 2015, with his latest 2015 album, “The Great Unknown,” receiving a Top 10 debut on the Soundscan/Billboard 200 chart and housing the hit single “Hold on Forever.” Of course, this comes off sundry hits that he produced with Matchbox 20 that include “3 AM,” “Push,” and “If You’re Gone.”
Thomas and Duritz have some history together, having many common friendships and continuously crossing paths with one another, including in Italy, according to reports. Interested in producing a fun summer concert together, the pair decided to team up, as their YouTube announcement indicated.
“Music is about good friends getting together and celebrating life. Our fans are going to be doing that in the audience and we will be doing that on stage as well. Bring on the summer!” Thomas said in a statement.
Thomas also was recognized with three Grammy awards in 1999 for work he did with Carlos Santana on the song “Smooth.” In fact, that album went on to receive Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals. It also was named Billboard’s No. 2 “100 Songs of all Time” — topped only by Chubby Checkers’ “The Twist.”
Collaboration isn’t unfamiliar to Thomas, who has also worked with well-known and iconic artists like Mick Jagger and Willie Nelson. However, his success may come just as much from his relatability as anything else.
“I’ve never written songs that speak to a particular group of disenfranchised youth,” he said in a bio on his website. “I’m not super political. I just write songs about people and how they relate to each other.”
Gimme the deets
Like Thomas, the Counting Crows also released an album somewhat recently, in 2014. Entitled “Somewhere Under Wonderland,” the album was the band’s seventh and led to a worldwide tour throughout Europe, Australia, and Canada, but also the U.S. That tour included special guests Citizen Cope, known for his mix of blues, folk and R&B, as well as the rock band Hollis Brown.
The Counting Crows formed in 1991 in Berkeley, Calif., and became well-known through such hits as “Mr. Jones” and “Round Here,” both coming off the band’s first album in 1993, “August and Everything After.”
That album had a run of 93 weeks on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums Chart, selling more than 7 million copies.
Of course, the band not only includes Duritz — who is known for his trademark buoyant hair extensions — but also additional members, such as guitarist and vocalist David Bryson, drummer Jim Bogios, and others. Duritz, who has been very public about his struggles with mental illness, also plays the piano. Across the ages, he has been compared to iconic musicians like Van Morrison and, with the Crows, played during the 1993 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony — representing the absent inductee Van Morrison, according to Rolling Stone.
Like Thomas, Duritz also has made it a point to collaborate and, in 1994, co-wrote “Going Back to Georgia” with folk-country singer Nancy Griffith for her “Flyer” album.
The Reno performance of the Counting Crows and Thomas comes well past the midway point of their tour, but recent reviews indicate the shows are replete with nostalgia, particularly with a return to the classics for both Thomas and the Crows.
On Thomas’ end, this includes pieces from his work with Matchbox 20, but also songs from his solo work. Thomas’ performance pieces have included “3 AM,” “Mockingbird,” and “Her Diamonds,” but that skill includes tributes to others, too. At the show in Detroit, for example, it was reported by the Metro Times that Thomas played a rendition of “Smooth” toward the end of his set, and also included a tribute to Prince, who died in April of this year, with a cover of “Baby, I’m a Star” off of Prince’s “Purple Rain” album. At the Syracuse show, Thomas covered David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” according to Syracuse.com.
Duritz, too, is showing an ability to belt out fan favorites on this tour, according to reports, performing pieces like “Omaha,” “Recovering the Satellites,” “Big Yellow Taxi,” “A Long December” and “Mr. Jones.” In Oakland, the Crows also did a cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil.”
By all reports, the two have been performing sets of 16 songs or more each, with Thomas taking the stage first followed up by Duritz with the Counting Crows — or vice versa. It’s even been reported that Thomas makes mention of the Counting Crows’ early influence on his music and speaks of their longtime friendship on stage.
It seems unlikely that fans will walk away with anything less than a memorable night from this tour, but it’s sure to be a unique combination no matter what Thomas and the Counting Crows bring to the stage.