It has been a few years since Counting Crows last played UK dates, and late into tonight's show lead singer Adam Duritz apologises for the lengthy absence, promising to return sooner. Judging by the sold out show (the first of two dates in London), that return would be welcome despite the band, that apart from the Shrek soundtrack, have been off the UK radar for ten years or more.
After a surprisingly impressive warm up from young Brit singer Lucy Rose (who sounds constantly in awe and in shock over playing such a large venue), one of America's more interesting rock bands of the last two decades appears on stage to the gently building keyboard and guitar sounds of Sullivan Street from their first (and best) record August and Everything After. That album made the band one of the biggest at the world, with a Rolling Stone covershoot, and the subsequent fame left Duritz struggling to cope. He seems much happier twenty years later.
Counting Crows' live are also always good value because of Duritz's passionate story-telling style of singing; he throws everything into each song. He is also fully aware of his own vulnerability - the fine line his mental state constantly treads even now. He tells the audience at one point that Sessions is about the difficulties of being a rock singer. "A bit like most of the songs" he adds.
Fans know that with Counting Crows, that no live show ever feels the same, with the band changing set-list regularly and introducing other people's songs into their own. It means that even when their older songs are performed, there is something new to hear, like Rain King's venture into Elbow's Lippy Kids; while Goodnight Elisabeth features The Velvet Underground's Pale Blue Eyes.
There is very little chat, which Duritz later explains is a good thing as he ends up talking crap otherwise. Therefore the almost two hour set is packed with a range of songs from across their six studio albums. The pick are Omaha, a welcome appearance of A Long December and the tender Colorblind, with the rockier elements coming from the likes of Hanging Tree and the excellent Recovering The Satellites. They might not be making the front cover of Rolling Stone anymore, but there is still a place for Counting Crows - and these fans will hope Duritz is good on his promise to be back soon.