Counting Crows, Matchbox 20 play Grand Theatre
Counting Crows singer and pianist Adam Duritz had a little chuckle when he was reminded of his recent quote about Matchbox Twenty lead singer Rob Thomas to promote the bands’ current tour: “We took a vote after last year and decided to spend every summer with Rob from now on.”
It turns out that isn’t as far from reality as it may seem, as Duritz detailed the talks he and Thomas had during last year’s Counting Crows/Rob Thomas tour.
“The truth is, we were talking a lot last year between us, about how we could do this every summer,” said Duritz in an interview from his home in New York City. “Could we start a festival maybe? And have other bands play with us every year? We were literally trying to brainstorm how to do it.”
Duritz doesn’t know if it will truly become a tradition, but for now the Counting Crows/Matchbox Twenty tour is rolling across America in 2017, with a stop slated for July 26 at Grand Sierra Resort. Counting Crows will follow openers Rivers And Rust with about a 90-minute set every night, with Matchbox Twenty closing out the show.
“Rob was before us every night last year, so it’s only fair that we open for him this year,” he said.
What the band plays changes from night to night, as Counting Crows doesn’t have a set list they perform at each stop. Duritz went through the process: “After sound check, I send a text to the band and crew, and the other bands if we’re close friends, to just ask, ‘Is there anything you want us to play tonight?’ And then we get a bunch of suggestions and me and David (Bryson, Counting Crows guitarist) sit and make the playlist.
“We just don’t want it to get tired. We have 100 or so songs that we know, probably more like 80-plus in the actual rotation at any given time.”
Success and everything after
All those song choices are from decades of work. Durtiz and Bryson formed Counting Crows as an acoustic duo in 1991 in Berkeley, California. Eventually, the two musicians formed a full group, among them current members Charlie Gillingham on keyboards and David Immergluck on guitar. The current band includes those four initial members, plus drummer Jim Bogios, bassist Millard Powers and guitarist Dan Vickrey, who joined the band soon after the group earned its first hits.
The group did hit big on its debut album. Signing to then-red-hot Geffen Records in 1993, the group released “August and Everything After” that same year. it features signature songs such as “Mr. Jones,” “Round Here” “Anna Begins” and “Rain King.” The record hit No. 4 on the charts and sold more than seven million copies.
One thing that Duritz in particular was singled out for was his often ornate, literary-styled lyrics. Though, he said that the words he writes aren’t more or less important than the melodies or chords he puts to them.
“This stuff about me being a poet ... they are not poems,” he said. “To me, they are song lyrics, and both parts are really important to me. I don’t think I’ve ever written the song lyrics first in my life, which I think says a lot about where I’m coming from. The lyrics are always inspired by the music.
“I know I’m not the greatest musician, but I am really good at arrangements and I may be more gifted on the lyrical side. But for me, if the tune doesn’t stick in your head, no one’s going to notice the words.”
That combo of snappy tunes and memorable words helped the band craft a career. Counting Crows’ next four albums, all on Geffen, went into the top 10 album charts. Among the best known songs from the group during this period were “A Long December,” “Hangin’ Around,” “American Girls” and a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.” The group also contributed a song to the “Shrek 2” soundtrack, “Accidentally in Love,” which was also nominated for Best Original Song at the Oscars.
Getting the songs together
For the past 10 years, the band has released three more albums and still tours extensively. Among the songs that are popular from this later period of the group are “Scarecrow,” “Cover Up the Sun,” “Come Around,” “Washington Square” and “When I Dream of Michelangelo.”
As for their tour mates, Matchbox Twenty came into prominence a bit later than Counting Crows. Their first three albums — “Yourself or Someone Like You” in 1996, “Mad Season” in 2000, and “More Than You Think You Are” in 2002 — have sold a combined 18 million albums. After that initial rush of activity, the band were on-and-off hiatus frequently, sometimes for Thomas’ solo career. The tour this year marks the first time Matchbox Twenty has been on the road since 2013.
The best known songs for Matchbox Twenty include “Push,” “3 a.m.,” “Real World,” “Bent,” “Unwell,” “How Far We’ve Come” and “She’s So Mean.”
After this tour, there may be some woodshedding taking place for Counting Crows. Duritz said he is now in the writing stage for some new material. He said he is getting some musical pieces together first and then will get together with other members of the band to start making those into full-fledged songs. He said that the group completes songwriting differently for each album.
“I’ve never really had a set approach,” he said. “There are records where we wrote a lot of stuff before we went in, and others where I wrote one or two songs and then we wrote all the rest in the studio. For ‘Hard Candy’ and ‘Desert Life,’ we wrote at least half in the studio. We got really creative so we just kept going.”
For the group’s last record, Duritz described a confidence issue with his own work that his bandmates helped him get through.
“The last time I was writing a lot of different kinds of music and lyrics, and I wasn’t that sure about them, if they were actually good enough,” he said. “So we got together and started to pull out pieces of the music and lyrics and starting flipping things around, and we ended up nailing down some of the songs. I didn’t have as much faith with them at first, but they helped me appreciate them for what they were and they were really excited about them. So, this time around I’m trying to nail things down and finish the songs so we can collectively go through these ideas.”