The Tweeter Center was nearly packed to maximum capacity on Aug. 25, thanks to the arrival of radio rock mainstays The Goo Goo Dolls and Counting Crows, with support from up-and-comer Eliot Morris. The two big bands showed different attitudes towards performing, as The Goo Goo Dolls played a by-the-books set of hits, as well as songs from their new album Let Love In, while Counting Crows provided a loose set of singles and fan favorites in a free-form, jam-based performance. Either way, it was a great night for soccer moms and college kids alike.
“Special guest” Eliot Morris had the unenviable task of opening the show for a half-filled stadium. Morris is the average VH1 “You Oughta Know” singer/songwriter-type. His music is for those who think Jason Mraz or James Blunt don’t quite rock hard enough. But the guy’s got heart, and his band played a competent 30-minute set to polite applause. Morris also offered up a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” for the crowd. Despite butchering the song by ridiculously slowing down the tempo and adding all sorts of vocal effects, concertgoers responded enthusiastically, if only because it was a song they knew.
By the time The Goo Goo Dolls’ equipment was set up, the Tweeter Center was packed and brimming with anticipation. After an overly-long and ill-advised light show, the Dolls exploded on to the stage with “Stay With You,” the second single from Let Love In. The band had fun with the crowd, insisting that purchasing the new album would stop terrorism.
“Remember when they said to buy duct tape for your windows? Forget that. Buy our album,” said Rzeznik. “It will magically stop terror. Terror will pass over your door.”
Amid all of the Let Love In hype were the Dolls’ most well-known hits, such as “Iris,” “Name” and “Broadway,” which featured a brief burst of saxophone from back-up musician Korel Tunador. The studio recordings of these songs were expertly recreated on stage, much to the crowd’s delight. The band also provided the crowd with a chance to take a seat by allowing bassist Robby Takac to perform three of his own songs (note that none of them have ever been singles). While Rzeznik’s voice has aged well, Takac’s sounds like a chain-smoking great-aunt’s.
Tunador’s sax skills were again implemented for a full-on solo during a set-closing cover of Supertramp’s “Give a Little Bit.” It's generally a lame idea to close a performance with a cover, but the Dolls put a good spin on an old favorite, so it all evened out. Afterwards, audience members made a collective mad dash to the restrooms and food stands in anticipation of Counting Crows’ set.
Whereas The Goo Goo Dolls were professional and straight-forward, Counting Crows went for jam band experimentation with their beloved songs, starting with the classic “Ana Begins.” The song featured an extended mandolin intro by David Immerglück, which established the mellower, funkier and all-around more free energy of Counting Crows. This was followed up with the peppier “Hard Candy,” from the 2002 album of the same name, and “Omaha,” from August and Everything After.
Throughout the set, frontman Adam Duritz maintained a free flowing, spoken-word-like delivery. It sometimes made singing along a tad too difficult, especially during “Long December,” but it also made the overall performance much more interesting. Whenever Duritz properly hit his “California poet” vibe, he transformed his songs into whole new listening experiences, like on the completely reworked “Mr. Jones.”
Politically and socially conscious, the band worked in not just one, but two PSAs. Duritz, with some sort of ironic/sort of serious piano accompaniment from Millard Powers, asked all in attendance to participate in the band’s ongoing community outreach program. He later reminded everyone that it was an election year and that voting is one of the most American things the crowd could do.
When not jamming, Counting Crows also served up some danceable tunes, like the Eliot Morris-assisted “Hanginaround,” which caused many older men and women to dance in the aisles. Other highlights included “Monkey” and “Catapult” from Recovering the Satellites and a transcendent rendition of “Murder of One” from August.
After an encore of “Mr. Jones” and “Holiday in Spain,” Counting Crows bowed out to thunderous applause. As fans walked out of the Tweeter Center, it became apparent that the crowd was divided over which act provided the better set. Sure, it was easier to sing along to The Goo Goo Dolls, but it was much more fun to dance to Counting Crows.