Hammersmith Apollo, London
21st October 2022
It’s Friday night at the Apollo and the second of two sold-out shows at this iconic London venue. It’s been a long four-year wait for much-loved Counting Crows to return to the UK, and the venue is full to bursting, with a palpable buzz of excitement.
The band is touting songs from their recent 4-song EP, Butter Miracle, Suite One, which boasts the first new songs they’ve written in 7 years, plus celebrating 30 years of Counting Crows (a year late thanks to pandemics and lockdowns).
Merely their arrival on stage sends the audience into raptures – it’s going to be intense. The current lineup is Adam Duritz (lead vocals), David Bryson (guitar), Charlie Gillingham (keyboards), Dan Vickrey (guitar), David Immergluck (guitar), Jim Bogios (drums) and Millard Powers (bass).
One notable, and the excellent, thing about this band is that they change their setlist for every performance. Tonight, they kick off with some of their best-loved packed into the first 15 minutes – Mrs Potter’s Lullaby is up first, full of nostalgia and hope – “If dreams are like movies, then memories are films about ghosts…”, and Adam Duritz is already pacing the front of the stage, making sure that everyone feels this is for them alone, voice strong as ever. St. Robinson In His Cadillac Dream follows, and then a truly uplifting rendition of Mr. Jones with its distinctive “Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la Mmm Uh huh…” – that has the photographers bouncing around happily in the pit while the audience sings their lungs out.
On the way in I overhear someone saying they’ve come hoping for Colorblind. Their wishes are answered in the fourth song – it’s a dramatic change from Mr Jones, throwing the audience into a completely different state of mind, finishing with the heartbreaking “I am fine. I am fine. I am fine.” By this point, it’s clear this is going to be no ordinary night.
Luckily, songs like Butterfly In Reverse, Mercy, and the “It looks like darkness to me” of Miami soon follow, bathing us in a foot-tapping country glow and reassuring us that Adam isn’t hellbent on breaking our hearts. Well, not totally anyway.
Fan favourite Round Here makes a welcome appearance, a song whose comfortable, loveable melody doesn’t quite gel with the uncomfortable, awkward subject matter. It’s full of nostalgia and regret – not ours, but it feels like ours – building to that heart-rending crescendo, before easing us back into calm.
The four songs from the Butter Miracle EP then hit one after another, starting with The Tall Grass, which on first hearing sounds so familiar and definitively Counting Crows, with the same theme that runs through so many of their songs “For I am changing / But all the same things just come back to haunt me”; always moving forwards yet deeply affected by ghosts of the past.
Elevator Boots is essentially a superstar lovechild of Elton John and Billy Joel, a next chapter to Scenes From An Italian Restaurant – its 70s vibe winds a special spell and it’s hard not to wonder what Counting Crows have been playing at concerts all this time, without songs like this.
Rain King, the glorious tribute to creativity, has the whole venue singing along with Adam – he convinces us that he really is the rain king – followed by the “nanananas” of A Long December, and more of Adam’s wonderful lyricism “And the feeling that it’s all a lot of oysters, but no pearls…” and “I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell my myself / To hold on to these moments as they pass”. In other words, it’s all a bit crap at times but there’s still hope.
As all encores should be, this one is perfect; Omaha’s melodic exploration of the human condition, again this repeated juxtaposition of nostalgia and hope for a better future, a theme continued by the upbeat, uplifting Hanginaround – “Well, you know I gotta get out / Well, I’m stuck so tight weighed by the chains that keep me..”. And this perfect evening comes to an end with Holiday In Spain which, incredibly, has only been played live 10 times, the first time last year – it taps into the feeling we all have at the moment with the world in the shocking state it is: “I may take a holiday in Spain / Leave my wings behind me / Flush my worries down the drain / And fly away to somewhere new.”
As the venue empties and the crowd pours out into the night, it’s hard not to be jealous of those who are yet to see them on this tour. See them if you can. Meanwhile, there, the rest of us are all off to Spain, thanks.
PHOTO GALLERY – NAOMI DRYDEN-SMITH