After two full days of rain, and even a morning of clouds and the occasional droplet, the sky suddenly cleared up over The Pennysaver Amphitheater, as if mother nature knew that the Counting Crows were set to play a stunning show on the opening night of their latest US tour for a a heavily diverse crowd of rock fans.
Situated near the center of Long Island, The Pennysaver Amphitheater is a venue that for one reason or another, seems to rarely have such well established acts come play at it. It’s bizarre, because other than difficulties with limited parking, the sight-lines and sound are fantastic at the nearly 7,000 capacity open air venue. For me, parking was not difficult at all, being as I was personally able to just walk there. Maybe I’m a bit biased for this reason, but I when I have to travel deep in to New York City most of the time for shows, its quite the breath of fresh air to not have to drive or take a train to get to a show.
Starting a tad bit later than the 7:30 show time, show openers/special guests The Wallflowers took to the stage. To their credit, I did see the band peaking their heads out and looking to the crowd at the proper time, and while they didn’t make mention of it, they likely started a bit later to give fans a bit more time to gather in to the venue, due to the parking issues. Once they did start however, they did not stop, focusing on filling the time they had with as much music as possible.
A bit more than halfway through the set had The Wallflowers performed their Grammy award winning song, “One Headlight“. As the Amphitheater began to fill up, numerous fans walked up the barrier to the front of the stage to sing along with front man Jakob Dylan. I even caught a few people who were waiting in the long lines for beer and wine singing along to the popular song. “Thank you guys so much, we’re The Wallflowers, and we’re already on our way back“, announced Dylan, to a healthy round of applause.
As the sun began to set, “Lean on Me” played over the PA system, and the seven band members of Counting Crows walked out to the stage, opening with “Sullivan Street“. Front man Adam Duritz took a seat towards the back of the stage by Charlie Gillingham, who played piano for this song. One important thing worth noting is that while Gillingham played piano on this song, he would often switch to a different instrument for each song. In fact, many of the other band members would either swap instruments, or grab something entirely different, depending on what song it was.
“This is a song Coby Brown wrote, I like to think he wrote it about me,” Duritz explained, before the band broke in to their cover of “Hospital“. “Untitled (Love Song)“, “Big Yellow Taxi“, “Like Teenage Gravity“, and “Return of the Grievous Angel“, were the other cover songs the Counting Crows played, breathing a different life in to these songs, and making them their own.
With Gillingham grabbing himself an accordion, the crowd quickly rose to their feet for fan favorite, “Omaha“. Nearly every word was sung along with Duritz, showing the crowd’s love, I could easily tell this was one of band’s favorites to perform as well, with large smiling lighting up on the faces of every member.
I’ve heard from others that Duritz is rather quiet between songs on stage, but this night must have been different. Perhaps it was being at home that got him talking, but he was more than willing to offer a bit of explanation about the band’s day, “I don’t know what we were thinking, because two of us live here, and trying to get in to Long Island on a Friday afternoon to a bad idea. It took over two hours to get here, and two of us missed sound check. Lucky for our crew, our else we’d be screwed tonight!” To my ears and eyes, everything sounded and looked wonderful, and it was a delight that clearly such a dedicated crew was given the recognition they deserve the first night of a tour.
If there was ever a point where Duritz was completely wrapped in his performance, it was for the nearly ten minute rendition of “Round Here“, a great highlight of the night. With nearly the entire crowd rising out of their seats and on to their feet, each words spoke and sung was with great passion, that caused much of the crowd to sing along often. Duritz cleverly ended the song by softly singing “come out“, repeating the lyric as his slowly backed away from his microphone at the center of the stage.
After returning to the stage for a very expected encore, “Washington Square“, “Hanginaround” and “Holiday in Spain” filled out the rest of the Crows’ night in Farmingville, NY. While they may have passed on playing arguably their most popular song, “Mr. Jones“, and a few others, the Counting Crows played passionately and impressively for nearly two hours. Many times, I found myself singing along to songs I had never heard before, simply because they were so catchy and enjoyable. Admittedly, I may prefer hard rock and heavy metal more than the softer style of rock the band plays, but as I began to head back home from the Pennysaver Ampitheater, I could not help but walk with a huge smile on my face and a sense of appreciation for Counting Crows. If you’re a fan of alternative rock at all, I suggest not missing this tour; it has all the pieces in place to be a solid one.