Adam Duritz sings as if he’s talking. The Counting Crows frontman paces the stage, gestures with his hands, pauses as if in thought, issues words in bursts, shakes his head. It’s as if he’s telling a story, explaining himself, confessing.
There’s also that expressive voice, and his predilection for slowing familiar songs down and reworking their melodies, making them new again – all of it gives the band’s appearance Tuesday at Wolf Trap an intimacy that made it feel more like a conversation than a performance.
The Crows traffic in a kind of guitar-based American music that’s steeped in Dylan, the Band and the Grateful Dead but knows enough to stay out of Duritz’s way as he works through all the things he has to say. Ultimately, he comes across more as a solo artist than as one of seven band members.
Which is fine; that voice is more than soulful enough to carry the proceedings, as on “Hospital,” which builds to a nice groove, and “Round Here,” in what feels like a languid, stretched-out version.
The "Strawberry Fields" keyboard intro to “Catapult” lends a touch of psychedelia, but that’s a departure; there’s a sameness to most of the music. I’ve written in my notebook that “Perfect Blue Buildings” has a nice somnolence, but it’s only by a matter of degree – they pretty much all sound that way.
And the audience loves it. The sellout crowd includes many who know all the words, not only to the hits and album tracks but also to the covers – Coby Brown’s “Hospital,” the Romany Rye’s “Untitled (Love Song)” and Gram Parsons’ “Return Of The Grievous Angel.”
Duritz sings the Dead’s “Friend Of The Devil” as gently as a kiss, and the audience sings the chorus back softly – another moment of connection in an evening full of them.
The Wallflowers, in contrast, give an oddly subdued performance.
Jakob Dylan has been an engaging performer on earlier passes through the region, but he seems to have little interest in connecting with the audience Tuesday. The band is quiet when it should rock, and Dylan, who has a terrific live voice, seems only to be marking the words.
“One Headlight,” the Wallflowers’ biggest hit, sounds OK, and the Rolling Stones’ “Loving Cup” is a cool choice of a cover. But “The Difference,” one of the band’s most satisfying rockers, just lies there, and the overall impression is one of musicians who would prefer to be somewhere else.
Counting Crows' Setlist
Time and Time Again
Untitled (Love Song)
I Wish I Was a Girl
Black and Blue
Perfect Blue Buildings
If I Could Give All My Love (Richard Manuel is Dead)
When I Dream Of Michelangelo
Friend of the Devil
Big Yellow Taxi
A Long December
Return Of The Grievous Angel
La Ballet D’Or
Holiday in Spain