Counting Crows, Live and Galactic

Saturday, July 29; Riverport

On its face, the pairing of Counting Crows and Live on a co-headlining tour seems curious at best, hopelessly incongruous at worst. The Crows, of course, embody the old wine of classic-rock stylings in the new skin of hits like "Mr. Jones," "Round Here," and "A Long December." The group has followed a curious path: After roaring out of the gate with their 1993 debut, August and Everything After and its 1996 follow-up, Recovering the Satellites, both of which sold millions, the Crows turned, seemingly too fast, to "Across a Wire," a double live album (frequently seen as a career summing-up or a surrender). Certainly it wasn't that -- in fact, it was quite good, with the band showing off their abilities in both electric and acoustic contexts -- but fans and detractors alike may have read it as such anyway, for the Crows' commercial fortunes have foundered a bit since. Their 1999 effort, This Desert Life, did respectably well but nowhere near the multiplatinum numbers of August and Satellites.

Live is stalled in similar commercial doldrums right now, but having something like that in common is hardly the stuff of which a mutually beneficial tour is made. Or maybe it is. Live, after all, draws somewhat from the same VH1-friendly crowd as Counting Crows. But their music comes from quite another direction. The Crows, of course, are led by perpetually wounded soldier of love Adam Duritz, whose songs seemingly revolve around revealing what a sensitive cat he is. Live's Ed Kowalczyk doesn't stop there, of course -- he's out to save the planet, preaching a message of universal love on The Distance to Here, accompanied by apocalyptic images of rivers raging and dolphins crying. Say this much for Kowalczyk and company -- they're not afraid to dream big.

Thank God for opening act Galactic, who put aside all such issues in favor of a high-stepping blend of New Orleans-style funk and rock that will shake the groove thing of all those arriving early. The band's recent album Late for the Future is well worth checking out. Can't wait to see 'em in concert as well.

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