Eat your heart out, ‘Mr. Jones’


Adam Duritz wants to be Bob Dylan — or so he says in “Mr. Jones.”

Maybe the Counting Crows frontman didn’t transform into the senior Dylan. But he did form a close friendship with the iconic songwriter’s son, Jakob, leader of the Wallflowers.

Not only did Duritz suggest selecting T-Bone Burnett as the Wallflowers’ producer, but he also collaborated with the band on “6th Avenue Heartache” from its debut album, “Bringing Down the Horse.”

“I was probably [in the studio] for a total of half an hour. I walked in, sang it, walked out,” Duritz recalled.


That relationship led to a professional alliance. Counting Crows will take the stage at the Pacific Amphitheatre on Sunday as part of the OC Fair’s Toyota Summer Concert Series. The Wallflowers kick off the performance at 7 p.m. This is the first time since 2001 that the bands have toured together.

The pairing resonated with Dan Gaines, the fair’s entertainment director, who said the show is almost sold out.

“The choice of Counting Crows and the Wallflowers was really a choice that was made because we felt it really hit our demographic,” he said.

Though linked, the bands took divergent paths to the top — one a product of rock royalty, the other emerging from obscurity.

Duritz, who was born in Baltimore, wrote his first songs in his bedroom as a child trying to understand his feelings and the world around him, and that approach stuck. His band, which originated in 1991, ascended two years later with the release of the “August and Everything After” album.

Duritz, now 48, continues to regard creativity as “its own reward and path” and frowns on “diluting it with other stuff” — stuff being a focus on hits, money, sales or the possibility of failure.

As a result, he doesn’t spend time under the limelight thinking about the audience. His mind is focused on his band and its onstage dynamic. The seven-piece ensemble has no qualms about going off on a tangent mid-performance — rhythms and chord patterns are fair play — which demands a high level of cognizance.

“We are really not playing some song we learned 20 years ago,” Duritz said. “We are playing it right then and there. It changes and you have to listen very carefully to what everyone else is doing because someone will make a left turn, and if you’re not listening, you [mess] the whole song up.”

This casual vibe also affects each performance’s set list, which Duritz determines by sending a text to the crew, opening band and fellow Counting Crows members after sound check.

When “Anything you want to play tonight? Anything you want to hear?” flashes across their phone screens, people reply with personal favorites. Duritz and guitarist David Immerglück then use the suggestions as a starting point for the evening’s lineup, which is constantly changing.

Although Duritz believes that his band has always done a great job at live performances, this year’s shows have risen by several notches. He attributes this to last year’s release of “Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation),” Counting Crows’ first covers album.

“It never occurred to me till after we made that record how limiting it is to spend your entire career working with one songwriter — even though, in this case, the songwriter is me,” Duritz noted. “There’s so much to learn from other people.”

It goes without saying that one person Duritz learned from will share the stage with him Sunday.

The Wallflowers, formed in 1989 in Los Angeles, were originally known as the Apples. After a slew of personnel changes and a recent hiatus, the Grammy-winning troupe released its latest album, “Glad All Over,” in October.

When the Wallflowers broke through in the late 1990s, the media often tied Jakob to his father, who was enjoying a career resurgence at the time. After a decade and a half, have the Wallflowers stayed relevant?

John Borack, 51, a Fountain Valley-based musician who recently authored books on John Lennon and power pop, said comparisons are unavoidable for the offspring of music legends. But he believes that although Lennon is more prominent than sons Julian or Sean and Paul Simon is more famous than Harper Simon, Jakob holds his own.

“Well, Bob Dylan is a true rock ‘n’ roll legend, so that automatically puts his son at something of a disadvantage as far as comparisons go,” Borack remarked in an email. “But to his credit, Jakob Dylan didn’t start out by attempting to sound exactly like his father (as Julian Lennon did) or even perform in a similar style (as Arlo Guthrie did). I think this definitely helped him carve out his own niche as a musician.

“It’s difficult to ‘rank’ artists because it’s all a matter of personal preference, but Jakob has certainly done well for himself. A 20-plus-year career in the music business is nothing to sneeze at.”

Duritz would agree with that statement. Reflecting on Counting Crows’ history, he remarked that longevity has been a priority. Sidestepping “short cuts,” the band traded wealth for creative control and made what it considered to be the best possible records — each a reflection of Duritz’s “yesterday and today.”

In retrospect, though, some successes have caught the members unprepared.

“Mr. Jones” began as Counting Crows’ third track on “August and Everything After” and was never envisioned as a single. But after making the Top 10 in early 1993, it became the band’s first radio hit.

“Nobody wanted that as a single — nobody thought it was a single,” Duritz remarked. “I just thought it was a good introductory song, and then it got played a lot.”

If You Go

What: Counting Crows and the Wallflowers

Where: Pacific Amphitheatre, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa

When: 7 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $32.95 to $66.65

Information: (714) 708-1500 or