Counting Crows, Michael Franti bring the traveling circus to Boston

A review of Counting Crows, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Augustana at the Bank of America Pavilion on August 31, 2009

, Contributing Writer

You couldn’t even tell that the Flaming Lips had been on stage the night before when the Saturday Night Rebel Rockers Traveling Circus and Medicine Show tour featuring the Counting Crows, Michael Franti & Spearhead, and Augustana hit the Bank of America Pavilion on Monday night. The confetti was all swept up, the streamers were gone from the rafters. But this show brought a different kind of organized chaos.

In a unique formant, this one-of-a-kind show featured the three bands coming out together, amidst a sea of instruments and people, and just rocking out to open with Van Morrison’s “Caravan,” and Franti’s “Hello Bonjour” to get the crowd going. Actress Emmy Rossum joined the trio of bands for the opening numbers, and contributed her strong, twangy vocals in intermittent solos throughout.

The show’s unusual format provided for a constant rotation between the three bands performing their own mini-sets and crossing over to join together for other songs. Each of the band’s delivered their hits from Augustana ‘s “Boston,” to the Counting Crows “Mr. Jones,” and Michael Franti & Spearhead’s “Say Hey (I love You),” the first song they said has hit the Top 40 in their fifteen-year career. Emmy Rossum did “Going Back to Georgia,” a Nanci Griffith country, folksy and heartfelt tune.

The three bands each brought different energies and styles to the three and a half hour set, which included one short intermission. The Counting Crows were expected to be the big draw for the night. The veterans boasted a strong repertoire of hits and jovial frontman Adam Duritz led the way by running and jumping around onstage all night. However, much of their set was given a lackluster response from the near-capacity crowd. Thankfully, Franti & Spearhead had no problem firing up the crowd and had everyone dancing and clapping with their reggae-infused rock. Augustana, though not bad, didn’t seem to quite fit the show’s bill with their more mellow/low-key pop-rock.

After the bands split the time in the second act, everyone came back on stage for another round of collaboration. Memorable covers included Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman,” Simon & Garfunkle’s “Cecelia” and the Grateful Dead’s “Casey Jones.” It was in these moments when the band’s joined forces that they really made the show one to not forget. Tambourines, guitars, bongos, drums, electric guitars and microphones were strewn everywhere, to be used seamlessly when everyone got together. It was organized chaos. The tour is nearing the end of its run yet none of the performers displayed any fatigue, but rather a fresh outlook and tight kinship with one another.

The real prize of the night goes to Franti and his band, including guest Cherise Anderson, who brought the funk and groove that propelled the show. Certainly, the tour itself is a very unique concept and for the most part, it worked. There were no overreaching weaknesses, and you probably won’t see other bands sharing a marquee like they did here. For the good and for the bad, there were many chaotic moments with upwards of 19 people sharing the stage at once. Fans that were looking for individual sets, undoubtedly left the Pavilion unhappy. However, for those that arrived on time with& an open mind, received over three hours of entertainment. Nothing spectacular but a good way to spend a Monday night.

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