Live Review: Counting Crows w/ Lucy Rose @ O2 Academy, Glasgow. (02/11/14)

Words: Justin Hulford.

Before getting to the music I have to comment that it has been a while since I have been at the Academy and even longer since I have been up on the balcony. I’d forgotten how ridiculously hot it is up there and we were all left sweltering in our seats. That the draft pumps weren’t working at the bar just added insult to injury!

I had never heard of opener Lucy Rose, a five piece named for their elfin vocalist who also played guitar and did occasional keys. A quick look around the web suggests she is something of a rising star and I have to say I didn’t see it. Or hear it.

She looked a bit oddly dressed for her environment and some vague attempts to rock out were a tad embarrassing. Her vocal sits somewhere between insipid and wet, and it was hard most of the time to tell that the guitars people were holding were actually being played.

At one point she said something like “I can see some of you moving out there, it means a lot”. What it means is that she has a lot better eyesight than me as the usual raucous Glasgow crowd stood fairly motionless throughout, just offering polite applause.

Let’s hope it was an off night – the songs were samey, occasionally haphazard, a type of pop prog if you will, and didn’t deliver in any part. The only reason I could see for any interest from the audience was that Crows’ singer Adam Duritz introduced the band. He said they were a great band from London. He was wrong. For a start, Lucy is from Surrey…

So onto the Crows. They are one of those bands that if you aren’t a big fan you suddenly realise that you know a lot more of their material than you thought you did. From the very off though this was a show on two very different levels.

Musically they were quite superb, supported by crisp sound that allowed some rich tones to come from the guitars and the myriad of other instruments. And there sure were a lot of them! There must have been over twenty guitars used, as well as banjo, bass, mandolin (possibly two!), accordion, slide guitar, keyboards, piano, organ and a range of percussion items including drums.

On the one hand that makes them very impressive, clearly talented musicians that did tend to have thoughtful, and plentiful, lyrics to go with it. But unfortunately it made for near chaos. As well as the seven players on stage, there was also a plethora of technicians and assistants. They seemed to be having nonstop discussions with each other in between retuning the numerous guitars, unplugging this that and the other, and being a general distraction. One guy seemed to have a near permanent job of sitting behind the drummer so was at least generally still!

Perhaps it was my elevated position that revealed too much or else the use of some incredibly bright lighting. Whatever it was it was hard not to watch the antics – thankfully nothing major seemed to go wrong or else it would have been even more chaotic!

Back to Duritz. He really performed, living and breathing most of his lyrics, a commanding presence generally. He just seemed so into it and his very rich voice is a joy even if you aren’t a huge follower of the band. But aside from one of the guitarists I wasn’t that convinced by the others. One hat wearing guitarist tended to look a little bored, the other even went off for a couple of songs. Of course he may simply have just not had a part but for most of the gig there seemed to be at least two too many on stage for each song. I felt most sorry for the bassist as he was squeezed between the piano and the drum kit.

It was an odd experience really. Very well played music led by a guy with a cool voice and some real presence, supported by a band that seemed a little disinterested on the whole, with regular madness from the crew. This was particularly bad during the changeovers, something surely possible to reduce by altering the set list so that a few more songs in a row can be played with the same kit.

I found it all a little frustrating. As you may have deduced, I loved the singer, enjoyed the professionally played music but didn’t really feel like I was at much of a gig. Neither did it appear did most of the band. The crew’s antics really didn’t help and although the crowd were vociferous in applause, and sang along strongly during a couple of numbers, they were still largely not moving. It maybe was just as well that Lucy didn’t pep them up.

Confused.

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