Speak to Adam Duritz for long, and if nothing else soon becomes clear, you know that he prides his concerts on their unpredictability.
While it has become common to see ’90s rock bands pop up on summer concert calendars, the Counting Crows frontman isn’t comfortable relying on past achievements to move tickets.
The average Crows fan could write down a list of a dozen favorite songs from the band’s catalog while walking into one of their shows, and there is a strong chance that only two or three may be heard that night. It’s a strategy that the singer acknowledges may infuriate some audience members, but it has helped the band – set to play Tuesday, Aug. 22, at Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek in Raleigh – avoid burning out on their greatest hits.
“We (irritate) a lot of (the audience) every night by not playing a lot of the songs that they are coming out to hear,” Duritz said over the phone, during a break in the band’s tour.
“We change the set-list every night, because if you are going to do something for your entire life for this long, it would be really easy to start phoning in songs that you are playing only out of a sense of duty,” he said. “From the very beginning we’ve rejected that idea. Pretty soon we had enough songs where we didn’t have to play the same ones every night, so we didn’t.”
The Counting Crows will be joined by Matchbox Twenty for “A Brief History of Everything” tour.
“I don’t want to get sick of my songs, because I love them and I’m proud of them,” Duritz continues. “The worst thing to do is to do something you don’t really want to do over and over again; that will really ruin something for you.”
Despite the 20-plus year history as a band, Duritz is quick to remind anyone that he still considers the band to be an active artistic endeavor. The group’s best years certainly aren’t behind them. Those who have found themselves in the company of a Crows fan can attest to the enthusiasm for the band’s recent material. But Duritz said he knows others may head to the concession stand when the headliner announces, “And here is something off our new album.”
Duritz points out that it’s a battle that all musicians will face if they are lucky enough to have a long career.
“I realize that nobody stays at the center of culture forever, and most of us never spend a minute there, so if you are lucky enough to have gotten there for a second, it can get hard to be considered peripheral after that moment is up,” he said. “Even people like Neil Young have shows that longtime fans are dissatisfied attending, because these are artists that are playing shows on the strength of the new album that they just created and not the greatest hits that a lot of the audience came to hear.
“People will attach to musicians at a given moment in their lives, and that’s the moment that they want to hear over and over again, and I can sympathize with that,” he said. “That being said, this is still my life, and the only way to stop from becoming a nostalgia act is by refusing to become one.”
With all of this weighing on Duritz in recent years, some might be surprised to see the Counting Crows traveling with Matchbox Twenty – another act whose hits were in the late ’90s and early 2000s – for the second consecutive year. Rob Thomas, the frontman of Matchbox Twenty, toured with the Crows last summer as a solo artist, while this year he will be performing with his bandmates.
But Duritz said this second go-round with his friend was something they both hoped would happen while they were in the midst of the first tour.
“It was such a great summer last year, just being on tour together,” Duritz said. “We had such a good summer that we – quite literally, and on more than one occasion – talked about how we could tour together every year. Like, do we build our own festival or what?
“We could never figure it out, and we really weren’t planning on doing it this summer,” he said. “We had another tour planned, ready to nail it down and put tickets on sale, when Matchbox called and said they wanted to tour with us. I thought it sounded like a really good tour, and it felt like a no-brainer. Neither we nor Rob spend a lot of time opening for other artists, and he was very gracious to always play before us last summer despite being the co-headliner, so it felt like it was only the right thing to do to play before them this summer.”
The singer continues.
“All it took was for them to decide that they were going to tour this summer, and it was easy for us to sign on,” he said. “We generally only tour with bands that we really love, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are friends of ours. But the chance to spend a summer with friends like Rob and the other guys in Matchbox is an opportunity you don’t really want to pass up.”
Who: Matchbox Twenty & Counting Crows
When: 6:45 p.m. Aug. 22
Where: Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek, 3801 Rock Quarry Road, Raleigh.
Tickets: $28.58 to $79.50
Info: 919-831-6100 or walnutcreekamphitheatre.com/.