Concert Review: Counting Crows at Bayfront Park Amphitheater

Categories: Concert Review
Traveling Circus 010.jpg
Photo by John Hood
Counting Crows at Bayfront Park Amphitheater Tuesday night.
Counting Crows, Michael Franti, Spearhead and Augustana
August 18, 2009
Bayfront Park Amphitheater

Better Than:
Having to drive to Atlanta

In case you missed the last few days, the beautifully-set Bayfront Park Amphitheater has reopened its doors and live music has come back to downtown Miami. Yeah, I know, there are other downtown venues -- Gusman, Bicentennial, the Triple A -- but there isn't another that can accommodate mid-size tours. So it's especially important that we've got Bayfront back. And I, for one of thousands, am damn happy we do.

Unlike those thousands though, I would've probably preferred a different grand reopening line-up. Not that there's anything wrong with the three bands that comprised the Saturday Night Rebel Rockers Traveling Circus and Medicine Show, mind you. It's that neither are my particular favorites.

That's just cranky ol' me though. 'Cause those thousands that did show up not only did so because at least one of the bands was their favorites; they did so with a particular gleam in their eye and an energy that was downright infectious. And get this: it was enough to make me ditch my initial petty little bias -- for good.

So the concert. As I mentioned it was billed as the Saturday Night Rebel Rockers Traveling Circus and Medicine Show. In other words: Counting Crows, Spearhead and Augustana. Crows were the de facto headliner, but there was no headlining set. There wasn't an opening set either. It was just one long throwdown where everybody pretty much got equal play.

At the get, there were 18 musicians on stage at the same time. That's every member of every band in the line-up. Fittingly, the gang broke with Van Morrison's classic "Caravan," a song that completely epitomizes the open road this gaggle has been treading lo these many moons. It's come up in Crows shows before, but never with such strength. To see lead singers Adam Durwitz, Michael Franti and Dan Layus trade off verses as if life really was all about song was something to behold. And it added to that infectiousness I mentioned.

Same goes for Spearhead's "Hello Bonjour," a polyglot party song that seemed perfectly suited to the occasion. Like "Caravan," this wasn't about ego, it was about song. And it was about how such a thing can move a crowd that's thousands strong.

And the crowd dug every measure. Even the rude girls who were yelling "We Want Franti!" next to me at the foot of the stage between songs seemed to lose their bad manners when the music kicked backed in. And for almost two hours there was a succession of entrances and exits, covers and classics, duos and threesomes, and then the obligatory rollicking encore to close out the night.

After a while, I stopped trying to keep up with what was being played by whom and when and just enjoyed myself. But I will tell you that Augustana more then held their own when they were given their chance to stage by themselves. The lads are a neo-cool throwback to the days of song and style, and in fact they're a little at odds with the Haight-like hippiness of both Spearhead and the Crows. That, naturally, makes them even cooler in my book. If I recall correctly the band played "Sweet and Low" and "Hey Now" before Durwitz returned to accompany them through "Stars and Boulevards." It was my personal highlight of the night. And who knows? I may have found a favorite in the line-up after all.

Welcome back, Bayfront.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: Call me a reverse fogy, but I tend to dig what the kids are doing these days, which is probably why I dug Augustana best.

Random Detail: Michael Franti's bare feet made me want to shower.

By the Way:
If you log on to the Circus site and give up an email address, they'll gift you with a zip-full of music.

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