In Concert

Aug 19, 2003

This weekend I was treated to an unexpected surprise, courtesy of my friend Jason. Someone had backed out on him at the last minute and a ticket to the John Mayer/Counting Crows concert was up for grabs. Surely I couldn’t let it go to waste. I quickly rearranged my plans and (with a, ahem, heavy heart) left work early to head to the concert.

First up was a band that we passed on a side stage. While sweaty young men and nubile young women glared at them from the beaches of the oversized posters on the prominently sponsored stage walls, Parker’s Back played some tunes very reminiscent of Train or Matchbox 20. I can’t say they were taking any musical risks but as the music fell through the summer heat, I couldn’t help but think it was a great warm up to the main event.

The opening band – which, I must say, I was surprised to see because I was unaware that there was an opening band – had an interesting mix of instruments. Wisechild replaced the standard rhythm guitar with a violin, reminding me of Dave Matthew’s Band without the sax and with a few more open spaces in their music. As I’m a big fan of Dave Matthew’s Band, it should come as no surprise that I enjoyed the show. Occasionally, their Tennessee roots were a little too obvious but I liked their sound. I picked up their new CD, which sits comfortably next to the CD I purchased of Parker’s Back earlier that day.

What surprised me about both of these bands was how well they were chosen for this event. Both of them gave us tunes that should have fit squarely in the middle of the radar of anyone in attendance. I was no exception.

The Counting Crows was the first of the two main acts. This was another surprise. My ticket had the words Counting Crows in the middle in big lettering. I thought that would make them the headliner. I was wrong. After speaking with some rather inebriated folks, we determined that it isn’t always this way. The Crows were taking a little break and sharing the stage. This article from MTV makes it sound like the co-headlining thing was the plan all along. Who knew?

They played a mellow set. Mr. Jones was a meandering ballad more than an upbeat quickie. Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi took a slow turn around the block. Their usual staple of songs were left to simmer, only boiling over on their last song, Hangin’ Around. The slow pace and warm summer buzz of tunes was surprising but not disappointing in the least.

You got the impression that the Crows have really grown into the concert thing. You can tell when musicians are jittery or nervous on stage. They weren’t. They were relaxed, comfortable fiddling with their music, and more than happy to try something a little different for a single night.

John Mayer took the stage as the headliner. The music could have come directly off the CD. My only complaints were that he didn’t move around all that much and that my favorite Mayer tune, Neon, was left off of the play list. I’ll get over it. Come Back to Bed, a track off his upcoming album, made up for it. This blues inspired tune was the highlight of the show.

No concert experience is complete without talking about the venue and, I have to say, the Nissan Pavilion was not the most wonderful place in the world to visit. It’s not a bad place to listen to music. It really isn’t. It was clean. I really enjoyed the use of a side stage to keep us occupied in the hour or so we waited for the concert to start. But that’s the problem. We arrived more than an hour early, given that concert took place in a venue that was smack dab in the middle of the route home for every commuter in the Washington Metropolitan area. If we had left any later, we would surely have listened to the concert from nearby Route 66, as my wife has done on more than one occasion.

Getting out was no easier. We camped out on a couple of large boulders and watched cars fruitlessly attempt to leave the parking lot for over and hour and forty minutes. The traffic was insane. A car in front of us moved 10 feet in the first hour and a half. That was gas well spent.

Despite Nissan Pavilion’s attempts to poison our good time, I had a blast. There’s nothing like a summer concert, especially when it is free (Jason, thank you very much). As for the pavilion itself, it’s not very likely I’ll return to that place anytime soon. My wife mentioned that the only way she would return to the Nissan Pavilion is if Jesus himself was preaching there. I’m guessing that is a tough act to book.

by | Categories: music |

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