Amidst the late-day upheaval that is Michigan Avenue at 5pm on a Wednesday, the Apple Store, bombarded with mid-nineties alt-rock thrill-seekers, has a distinct voice clamoring from its upstairs theater area, that of Adam Duritz, the dreadlocked crooner of Counting Crows. The band’s soundchecking for an impending in-store, in support of its latest effort, the Gil Norton-and-Brian Deck-produced “Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings,” and the crowd, forced to wait outside in line, blanketed by the final moments of sunshine, seems to rock back and forth in unison. Some have been waiting since morning.
In the theater, the band’s set up its gear on the small stage: a minimal drum kit, a bunch of acoustic guitars and banjos, a mic for Duritz. A screen hovers behind projecting the cover of the new album. Duritz gives a brief TV interview in back, then returns to greet a friend, presumably someone he hasn’t seen in some time given the gestures, and then is handed an iPhone with which to play. He indulges.
NBC5 cameras set up. Two journos talk. “I’m a big fan of the Crows, that’s why I’m here,” one says to the other.
“Um, OK,” says the camera operator nearby, his punk-rock-pink hair and tight jeans a bit to rambunctious for this crowd. But, then, he considers, “Well, that ‘Perfect Blue Buildings’ song is pretty amazing.”
A ridiculous live soul version of the Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” plays from the speakers, until it’s cut short and the band is given a brief introduction. The sound of the store’s alarm, beaming from downstairs, can be heard. Not long after, the band’s playing a stripped-down version of its first mega-hit, “Mr. Jones.”
Duritz takes questions from the crowd. “What’s your favorite drink?”
“I’m addicted to piña coladas,” he says.
“What do you like to do when you’re in Chicago?”
“Go to the Art Institute…it’s my favorite museum in America.”
“What’s your first musical memory?”
“Standing in front of a mirror and singing ‘Can’t Buy Me Love.’”
Duritz says some heartfelt things (when asked about Amy Winehouse, he says, “I hope she makes more records—first records can really screw up your life”), recounts some memories, tells some jokes during the two-hour-plus performance, as the band works through more than half of the quieter moments of its new record. The crowd’s pleased and, for some, even moved to tears.
When it’s done, and he’s taking pictures with fans who were stuck behind the camera crews and seated rows of the privileged, he can be heard saying, off-mic, “Thanks for staying with us for all these years.” (Tom Lynch)