Talking to Adam Duritz on the phone is like watching nostalgia incarnate walk through the door. The idiosyncratic voice of the Counting Crows frontman is still as raspy and boyish as ever, a key to his charm. That voice helped define a post-Nirvana ’90s.
If you are old enough to remember that now seemingly quaint decade, you probably remember Counting Crows and how they blew up the pre-emo alt-rock scene — “Mr. Jones” and “’Round Here” blaring from every radio station in an age when that counted for something.
Bringing up the 1993 album August and Everything After to anyone who was coming of age in that time (myself included) will elicit either a sigh or a cringe. Sigh because, man, did we feel feelings hard while listening to those songs. And cringe for the same reason: Who’s this sensitive fuck singing about how the heart matters more?
But don’t think for a moment the band is washed up, played out or delegated to the rose-colored memories of ’90s kids. Six successful albums followed Everything After, and Duritz says he’d like to get to work on the next record after the tour comes to an end this autumn.
“Three days ago we sold out Red Rock [Amphitheatre] again,” Duritz says, sounding as proud as if it were his first tour. “The truth is that just keeps happening. In fact, we’re selling more tickets this year than the year before and the year before that. It just seems to keep building, so something must be resonating with people.”
He points out that it’s not his generation (he’s 51), or mine (I’m 31) that he sees filling the seats, but 18- and 19-year-olds.
“It’s better now than it was then,” Duritz says of the band’s ’90s heyday. “I like playing in the band more than I did then.” He tells me a story about how an old college friend recently came to a show after not seeing them in concert for years.
“She was really getting freaked about me and Immy [guitarist David Immerglück],” he recalls. “She said it was like she could see our entire friendship up on stage.”
“That sort of stuff, you can’t have that when you start out,” Duritz continues. “I mean, we were friends back then, but we’ve had a lot of years to play together and just sort of like each other and hate each other and understand each other.”
After a pause, he offers: “What you want is friendship to play out musically, or antagonism to play out musically, but you want to see it in front of your eyes.”
Perhaps what the kids are responding to is music that’s not just a jumble of distant bleeps and autotuning, aloof frontmen in slick packaging, but a band that wears its heart on its sleeve like the ’90s itself.
Singer-songwriter Citizen Cope and rock outfit Hollis Brown join the Counting Crows 6:30 pm Sunday, Sept. 27, at Cuthbert Amphitheater; $45 adv., $50 door; $220 sound-check meet and greet. All ages.