New CD Hard Candy is surely the best thing that Counting Crows have penned since their vibrant debut August And Everything After. It sure seems like I'm not the only one who thinks this, as this latest live visit has clan Duritz filling up the UK's biggest sheds. Since when have this many people liked Counting Crows?
Speaking of the Crows frontman, Adam Duritz's first appearance on stage tonight is with opener Gemma Hayes, dueting on Hanging Around. Obviously this coupling gets a riotous response from the assembled throng, but is surprisingly not the highlight of her set. That honour goes to the jagged Tear In My Side - one of the songs where Gemma avoids slipping into a Delores O'Riordan howl. This is a good thing.
Always the unlikeliest of rock stars, Counting Crows amble on stage to the sounds of California Dreaming, and the light of a backdrop of candles - possibly fake, but at this distance effective none the less.
Have You Seen Me Lately? and All My Love (Richard Manuel Is Dead) start things off, as the mandolin and banjo of the former are exchanged for the all guitar attack of the latter. Good? To be honest, the band sound great, and Duritz is in fine voice, shuffling around the stage like a well tuned Mick Foley - awkward, but filled with charisma.
An unfamiliar piano into soon morphs into Counting Crows' most familiar track. Mr Jones is very different from the recorded version - it's stripped back to its core qualities - but no less effective.
"If there are kinda quiet songs on the album, they'll be like that . . . otherwise we'll fuck 'em up." The concept is an acoustic show of sorts . . . except when they feel like plugging things in again. Must try not to over-analyse . . .
Speedway comes and goes, as does a wonderfully fragile Good Time - complete with accordian from keyboardist Charlie Gillingham - before set hightlight Omaha. I didn't know they still did this live! One of my favourite Crows songs, and one that gets a huge reaction from the gathered masses.
Duritz lets us know that he's suffering from a stomach bug - possibly responsible for the Foley-esque shuffle - before launching into Goodnight LA and a sloppy but engaging rendition of Rain King. A solo take on Oasis' Live Forever (cheers from the Manchester crowd) leads into A Long December, and the mournful sentiments of this most beautiful of songs can still move me to tears . . .
Miami and Round Here finish things off, with an encore of Mrs Potter's Lullaby, Sullivan Street and Hanginaround - the latter heralding the return of Gemma Hayes and band to return the earlier favour.
"I was very inspired by the near possibility of vomiting," says Duritz. Okay. Well, whatever his muse, we can thank it for the effortless Holiday In Spain - a hell of a tune, and a hell of a way to round off a stunning show.
:: Rowan Shaeffer