When Counting Crows visits the Adler Theatre on December 16, it will be a different band from the one that scored top-10 hits with each of its studio albums from 1993's August & Everything After to 2008's Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings.
And for that, you can credit a lowly covers record.
It's more complicated than that, but in a phone interview earlier this month, singer/songwriter Adam Duritz explained that interpreting the songs of others was one of two key ingredients to the band's revitalization - which is in full bloom on this year's Somewhere Under Wonderland album. The record also hit Billboard's Top 10, and many critics have called it the band's strongest collection since its August & Everything After debut.
Counting Crows' new swagger is evident in its sets and on the album. Somewhere Under Wonderland's longest song, "Palisades Park," is its opening track and first single, and even before the record's release it kicked off the band's encores. "We played an entire summer of shows with an eight-and-a-half-minute song that nobody knew as the opening song of the encore, which is kind of crazy," Duritz said. "We had the confidence to do it."
Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings marked a sort of end for Counting Crows. Within a month of its release, Duritz revealed that he had depersonalization disorder - which he wrote in Men's Health "makes the world seem like it's not real, as if things aren't taking place. It's hard to explain, but you feel untethered."
The announcement coincided with Duritz's fatigue with the songwriting process that had sustained the band through 15 years and five very successful albums. "By the time we got done with Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings," he told me, "I was kind of fed up with being locked into this autobiographical record-making. People start to expect a certain plot arc from you, and while you can write as well as you can write, you can't change the actual plot of your life. I felt like I was not only trying to live my life to get my life together, but trying to live my life so I have a more interesting plot arc for the records. ... I was kind of tired of just talking about being crazy. It's not all there is to me."