Review: You can count on these Crows

“Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you got till it's gone.”

And so it felt when Counting Crows finished their set Sunday night at the OC Fair. They played for two hours, but I was desperate for at least two more when they left the stage.

I don't think I was the only one. The crowd at Pacific Amphitheatre was at near capacity, and the energy was hot even as the temperature outside dipped and a spattering of raindrops fell.

I admit this won't be the most impartial review. I am a die-hard Counting Crows fan. I've seen them perform three times, but one of the best things about this band is that no show is ever the same.

Counting Crows is like no other band onstage, in large part because of the showmanship and talent of frontman Adam Duritz. He isn't just a singer (and brilliant songwriter) — he's a true performer.

This was especially evident Sunday thanks to the two large video screens the Pacific Amphitheatre had on each side of the stage. They gave the audience a clear view of Duritz as he sang or, more actually, performed each song. He has such an animated personality and an undeniable stage presence.

The emotions he felt while performing shone through his facial expressions, gestures and heartbreakingly raw and real voice. He nearly brought himself (and me) to tears during his rendition of “Round Here,” which is always a crowd favorite.

I literally got chills as the opening chords of the song rang out. To me, hearing that song live is akin to a religious experience. (If you don't believe me, go out and buy their live album “Across a Wire: Live in New York City.” Your musical life will never be the same.)

For the more uptempo songs, like the popular Joni Mitchell cover song “Big Yellow Taxi” (as quoted above) and hits “Mr. Jones,” “Hanginaround” and “Mrs. Potter's Lullaby,” Duritz bounced around the stage with a boundless energy that the audience found contagious.

He showed a good amount of humor too. At the start of “A Long December,” Duritz’s piano was clearly out of tune. He stopped playing the song and chastised the crew, all in good fun.

But Duritz was just one component of what made watching and listening to the Counting Crows a great experience. The band is full of talented musicians, and they all took turns showcasing their skills with solo instrumental riffs in the middle of different songs. It was clear that the band members have a chemistry that could only have been cultivated through 20-plus years of performing together.

The night as a whole had a real '90s vibe with the Wallflowers as the opening act. Lead singer Jakob Dylan sounded (and looked) as great as ever and particularly sounded like his famous father, Bob, on a couple songs.

Their set included old hits such as “Three Marlenas” and “6th Avenue Heartache” and some newer songs like “Misfits and Lovers” and “Love is a Country” from the 2012 album “Glad All Over.” But the crowd didn't seem to truly get psyched until they played “One Headlight,” the song the Wallflowers are arguably most known for. Too bad their time was up after that.

I also thought an opportunity was missed. I’d hoped Duritz, who recorded backup vocals on “6th Avenue Heartache” back in the mid-'90s, would have joined them onstage for that song. I kept waiting for the moment and couldn't help but be disappointed when it didn’t happen.

Sunday's show was the final stop on the bands' summer tour. Duritz said he and his bandmates were going to take a break and eventually record a new album but promised they'd be back in town.

I'll be hangin' around for that.

Twitter: @KellyParkerTCN

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