Adam Duritz can make a stadium feel like a living room with his piercingly intimate, confessional lyrics. But over the last few years, his band, Counting Crows, strayed from the personal and veered into the universal — a change you’ll hear when the group performs at Klipsch Music Center on Sunday, Aug. 21.
Duritz first felt the band’s shift during the making of the 2012 album of cover songs, Underwater Sunshine
— a far cry from the diary-like debut album, 1993’s August and Everything After.
“When we were making the covers record, I realized what a waste it is to spend your entire life only working on one person’s song, even when that person is yourself,” Duritz says.
Duritz is known for plumbing his inner depths and holding a mirror up to himself in the songwriting process. But for him, the private pain that pours out on paper is just the “skeleton” of a song. It doesn’t come alive until the other band members filter it through their own feelings. And their instruments turn the stirrings of his psyche into songs that echo other people’s experiences and emotions. This is Duritz’s favorite part of making music: taking skeletons from the closet and fleshing them out with fellow artists. Underwater Sunshine
was especially cathartic in that regard, allowing him to step outside of his inner world and focus on collaborating and exploring other musicians’ work.
Counting Crows, Rob Thomas at Klipsch
A double dose of '90s favorites at Klipsch on Sunday kicked off with an opening set from K Phillips.
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“Having a bunch of songs that I didn’t own in my spine, that we all had equal partnership in was really good for us,” Duritz says. “It was refreshing to spend time interpreting and looking at the way other musicians see the world. We became a much better live band after that. It was weird because we’ve been playing a long time, and we’ve always been pretty good live, but we took a huge leap forward after making Underwater Sunshine. The tour of that record was the best we’ve ever played.”
Duritz said they brought the momentum of that tour and the “swagger” of how they were playing to their latest album, 2014’s Somewhere Under Wonderland, which the band will dip into this weekend, along with the oldies but goodies.
The concert at Klipsch seems like a blast from the past, as Counting Crows will be co-headlining with fellow ’90s rocker Rob Thomas. Since they both blossomed in the same era, Duritz is looking forward to walking down memory lane but also to learning new things, even from playing the old hits.
Counting Crows’ first big radio hit, “Mr. Jones,” strikes a completely different chord for him now than it did when he wrote it back in 1991. Essentially about the urge to be a rock star, the song takes on a new meaning after his decades-long dance with fame.
“When the guy in the song says, ‘When everybody loves me, I’ll never be lonely,’ you’re supposed to know he’s wrong. I really know that now,” Duritz says. “I still understand the desire of a kid to be a rock star because I still have that desire every day, but I also know in my bones how that’s not going to fix you, it’s not going to make you never be lonely. I know that in a deeper sense now than I ever could have known it then, when I was just a kid.”
Duritz adds that while 25 years does more, “Tuesday does something to a song, too. And so does Wednesday. Days are like filters, and when you pour songs through them, they all come out a little differently.”
Touring brings that constant change, which Duritz always opens himself up to on stage.
“Songs are like maps, and you can go through them in different ways,” Duritz says. “As long as you’re not trying to repeat the same experience over and over again, then you can feel free to let today and yesterday influence the music.”