Counting Crows confirmed their credentials as a first class live act last night, with a wonderful performance in Manchester as their world tour starts to wind down.
Frontman Adam Duritz, whose genuine enthusiasm and niceness shone through his hurt persona and dreadlocked, comedy lion appearance, is a performer who could melt any heart.
From the very beginning of the show, when he came on to introduce support act Lucy Rose (who really is terribly good) and shower her with plaudits, to the very end as he conducted the crowd through a farewell chorus of the Mamas and the Papas’ California Dreaming, he seemed to want nothing more than to pour his heart and soul into his performance.
And what a performance. Duritz explained towards the end that he had been ‘experimenting’ with slightly different vocals due to a sore throat, but that experimentation blended into what any viewer would consider a hallmark Counting Crows set.
From the vocal riffing exhibited during set opener Sullivan Street, through segueing Gillian Welch’s Look At Miss Ohio into the start of A Long December, and diverging from Round Here into a rambling lyric on running away with a girl, the songs meandered their own way through the Manchester Apollo all evening.
And it wasn’t just Duritz, long term band members Charlie Gillingham, Dan Vickrey and David ‘Immy’ Immerglück all took their turns in the spotlight.
Multi-instrumentalist Gillingham was particularly impressive, striking the perfect pose for a mean rock n roll accordion on Omaha, and cracking out the harmonica for the down-up-down encore of Washington Square, Hanginaround (replete with Duritz’ surprisingly loud self-percussion) and the touching Holiday In Spain.
The band have the experience and the talent to work the crowd, with Duritz conducting both the band and singing of the audience, as they built up, then slowed down with a middle acoustic trio of Mercury, Friend of the Devil and When I Dream of Michelangelo.
It was a competent performance, with plenty of brio and an ever-present melancholia taking the edge off of the cowboy Americana. Notable set omissions included earlier singles Colorblind and Mr Jones, but the opus is so strong they could have played for another two hours and still not put a foot wrong. If only time and Duritz’ throat had allowed.