Adam Duritz offstage

Onstage, he wore a Ramones T-shirt

Photo by Danny Clinch

 

It’s officially billed as the Counting Crows’ Traveling Circus and Medicine Show. In other words, it wasn’t your usual Counting Crows concert Sunday night at the revamped Taste of Minnesota in St. Paul. Rather, it was a 90-minute revue featuring the Crows doing lots of covers and guest appearances by Augustana and Notar, a rapper signed to the label of Crows frontman Adam Duritz.
Although Duritz has been known to play the clown in the past, this was hardly a circus or a cure-all medicine show. What it was was a strange but musically rewarding program. The rewards were in the collaborations, as Augustana’s Dan Layus sang harmonies, notably on the medley of “Rain King” and “With a Little Help from My Friends.”
For Counting Crows fans paying up to $30 to get in, there were probably too few hits and too many covers – Van Morrison’s “Caravan,” Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman” and Leon Russell’s “Delta Lady.” Indeed, there were some hits, including “A Long December,” “Hangingaround” and an off-key “Mr. Jones.”
Augustana did a few of its own songs, with Layus playfully saying “here’s a song called ‘St. Paul’” when he introduced the hit “Boston.” Notar was an oddball addition; not because he was not capable, but because he was a fish out of water.
Wearing a Ramones T-shirt and his distinctive dreadlocks, Duritz, 45, gave a couple of speeches related to the 4th of July. He encouraged everyone who is eligible to vote: “It’s the most patriotic thing you can do,” he said.
Duritz closed with Woody Guthrie's “This Land Is Your Land,” introducing it as being considered “unAmerican” when it first came out but now “being the most American of songs.” Accompanied by just acoustic guitar and mandolin, he sang it with purpose, passion and palpable patriotism. It was the perfect prelude to fireworks.
Sunday – the 4th of July – was the only night of fireworks at the reshaped Taste, which used to have free fireworks every night. The crowd for the Crows was sizable but not the usual July 4 audience.
Some people I talked to grumbled about the prices, not only for admission (it used to be free, now it’s $20 or $30, depending when you buy your tickets) but for food.  (At two new vendors, I paid $2.50 for a tiny half of corn on the cob at Barrio and $7.50 for a tabouli salad at Holy Land, where customers were getting sticker shock.)

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