By Steve Kabelowsky Contributing Columnist Published Jul 24, 2014 at 7:49 AM

Adam Duritz and his hair ruled the stage.

The Counting Crows lead singer led the close-to-sellout crowd in a nearly 2-hour-set Wednesday night at the Riverside Theater in Downtown Milwaukee.

From "Round Here" on the album "August and Everything After" to "Long December" on "Recovering the Satellites," the band's hits were sung along to with an audience that appreciates the folksy/blues sound of  musical storytellers sharing experiences of life and love.

The lighting display got to be a little too much for the room, but the affects worked well to keep the stage looking engaged and active. Members of the band played multiple instruments that ranged from accordions to organs and ukuleles.

Duritz commands on the stage, as the main storyteller, the band’s leader and orchestra director of the audience itself. His hair was so impressive, it deserved its own place on the bill.

Counting Crows has been releasing a new song every couple weeks before the release of the new album, "Somewhere Under Wonderland." The band played a couple of those new songs, notably "Scarecrow" and "Palisades Park."

If you were a fan expecting to hear everything that made the 1990s cool, this wasn’t the show for you. If you wanted to be entertained by a finely-tuned band performing an interactive show, that’s what you got out of the concert on the historic stage.

Walking on the stage to "Lean on Me" performed by Bill Withers, the band was cast in blue, hitting it hard and early with "Round Here" and a great renditions of "Untitled  (Love Song)," that had the crowd yelling "arms wrapped around my neck" and mumbling the rest of the words as a taxed brain was on the hook to come up with the rest of the lyrics.

Sure, we all knew the chorus to "Omaha," but the rest of the concert had me wishing I’d take the time to be familiar with some of the deeper cuts on the older albums. Maybe that was the point. Remembering Duritz with his arms soaring on into the main space of the theater, more than just a few of us will have to go back through our old CD collections.

As part of the GreyBird Foundation the band set up, three area non-profits were invited to the show and had a booth of their own in the lobby. It was their way to give something back to the people making a difference in our own community, and for Wednesday night, that was The Parks People, the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin and the Sojourner Family Peace Center.

At the end of the concert, after the three-song encore, you could tell the band had a great time performing, and if the schedule would have allowed, they would have jammed longer into the night.

Duritz mentioned that right now there is so much great music coming out of Wisconsin, he offered an unexpected mention of Field Report, Phox and others.

SPEAKING OF WISCONSIN: The band, Daniel and the Lion from Baraboo, opened the show with a six-song, 20-minute set. Their performance was a great folk and rock feel that seemed to fit nicely with the other groups on the ticket, and was organically well received by the nearly sold out crowd.

IT HAS BEEN A WHILE: Toad the Wet Sprocket, known for a sting of hit albums in the 90s took the stage for just shy of an hour. They have played in Wisconsin before as part of the first tour since coming back together last year after a 16-year break up. So, for them, it’s been a while since they were out on the road.

For the fans, it’s been a while to see them together again.

It was a little odd watching the band take their place on stage while "City of Compton" was bellowing out of the speakers. Looking at the crowd of 30- to 60-year-olds around me, I’m guessing I was maybe one of a dozen who knew what that song even was.

By the time Toad the Wet Sprocket hit "Good Intentions," there were about 10-15 people standing, including two women doing that hip sway thing just like they probably did in their dorm rooms 15-20 years ago. By the time they hit "Fall Down" and "Walk On The Ocean," we all were singing along, doing that same college girl hip sway … ah memories.

GOOD PEOPLE: A special nod goes out to the house crew at the Riverside, who went out of their way to accommodate all the guests, including those with disabilities. It’s actions like those that sets Milwaukee a part from other places, and all of you represented us very well. 

Steve Kabelowsky Contributing Columnist

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