Adam Duritz and Co. deliver premium fan service on hit-packed set in Costa Mesa
For a moment, I wondered if Counting Crows’ Costa Mesa concert had left me in some trippy state of imagining myself in a music video for their 2008 track, “Come Around.”
While driving back to Los Angeles, small, black, mysterious squares suddenly billowed around my car, swirling in an almost poetic fashion, unlike the usual tire debris or junk littering California’s notorious 405 freeway. At that exact moment, Spotify pushed play on “Come Around” and its eerily fitting opening lyrics.
“Little pieces blowing’ gently on the wind,” frontman Adam Duritz sang on cue. “They have flown down California. They have landed in L.A.”
I spent the rest of the drive contemplating what the universe was trying to tell me through “Come Around” – especially given the song wasn’t even on the set list during Wednesday’s Butter Miracle Tour 2022 stop at California’s Pacific Amphitheater.
Instead, it was throwback hit after hit, which the group churned out from the moment they came on stage, following a rollicking set from David Rosales and His Band of Scoundrels.
Opening the nostalgic 90-minute show, which was part of the 2022 O.C. Fair, with “Recovering the Satellites” from their 1996 album of the same name, the group (comprised of Duritz on lead vocals, Charlie Gillingham on keyboards, Jim Bogios on drums and Millard Powers on bass, plus David Immerglück, Dan Vickrey and David Bryson on guitars) then launched into 20-year-old crowd-pumper “Hard Candy.”
While the track got most fans onto their feet, it was the opening chords of the next song which jolted everyone else up from their seats, amid expressions of shock that the band would roll out their biggest hit, 1993’s “Mr. Jones,” so early in the concert.
The lead single from their 1993 debut album, August and Everything After, “Mr. Jones” became the band’s first radio success, rocketing up charts around the globe. “I wrote it in the middle of the night pretty drunk, I think,” Duritz previously told American Songwriter about the breakout track.
Slowing things down with a powerful, mesmerizing rendition of “Colorblind,” Duritz, 58, then introduced “Butterfly in Reverse.”
“We wrote this song 20 years ago and we played it a few times, then never played it again,” he said. “But a few years ago, my girlfriend started unrelentingly nagging me about this song. She just got such a bug up her ass. And, she’s a fairly reasonable person, but that ‘fairly’ contains multitudes!”
“I said, ‘I can’t really sing it very well,’ and she’s like, ‘You’re so f**ken full of sh**,’” Duritz continued. “So, eventually we did figure out how to play it. Now, I can’t get it out of the set. I want to sing it every night. It’s timeless.”
Another timeless offering followed as the band took fans on a musical tour of America, starting with “Omaha,” then stopping in “Miami” and “Palisades Park,” before landing in “Washington Square,” which kicked off an acoustic set.
“This is a song about home … going back there tomorrow,” Duritz said. “Thank you so much for coming out and hanging out with us tonight. The show’s not over, but thank you!”
In fact, the show was only halfway done. So, having played a string of older favorites, they launched into their latest release, 2021’s Butter Miracle, Suite One. Duritz began writing the four-track EP while spending time at a friend’s U.K. farm in 2019, then teased the new music by whipping up buttered toast on the online cooking series he shares via Counting Crows’ Instagram.
Marking their first new music since 2014’s Somewhere Under Wonderland, they performed the entire EP, from “The Tall Grass,” to “Bobby and the Rat-Kings,” before taking it back to 1993 with “Rain King,” which prompted a boisterous audience singalong.
“A Long December,” was up next, a nineties hit partly inspired by Hollywood hangs around the time Duritz dated actress Jennifer Aniston.
“In your twenties, you have that house that everyone hangs out at, so for one summer our hang place was this house shared by Samantha Mathis, an actress who’s an old friend of Adam’s, and Tracy Falco who was an agent,” celebrity photographer and Duritz’s pal Randall Slavin told InStyle in 2019. “Jen and Adam had become friends and they were hanging out there. Friends had just exploded and was massive, and Adam was in the biggest band in the country and his record was blowing up, so they were the biggest power couple.”
“The house was on Hillside and Adam immortalized it in the song, ‘A Long December’ when he sings, ‘Drove up to Hillside Manor sometime after 2 a.m.,’” Slavin continued. “He was referring to that house on Hillside, where we would all sit on the back patio until the wee hours of the morning, talking about how everyone’s going to change the world and make great art.”
That’s exactly what Duritz continued to do with his band, who have released seven studio albums over three decades, earned Grammy and Oscar nominations, produced loved film recordings like Shrek 2’s “Accidentally in Love,” played 1,500+ concerts and weathered the storm that Covid-19 inflicted on the music industry.
The pandemic made me see certain tracks and lyrics through a new lens on Wednesday night – “A Long December’s” “Maybe this year will be better than the last” echoing the hopes of both December 2020 and 2021. Closing song, “Hanginaround,” meanwhile ignited memories of “bumming around for way too long” during lockdowns.
For Duritz, the joy of being able to perform live again was evident throughout the show and his final words before bowing out were, “We will be back.”
Perhaps that was also the message behind my “Come Around” 405 freeway moment afterwards: that no matter how long the pandemic wears on, live music, bands, Duritz and Counting Crows, “will still come around.”
AUDIO: Counting Crows “Come Around”