Thursday, July 18, 2024

Review: Counting Crows and Santana at Hard Rock Live

“It was a huge pain in the ass getting here,” said Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz, addressing the crowd for the first time four songs into their set at Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood on Friday night. “There’s not a single person on stage whose flight wasn’t canceled at least once…When I tell you we are glad to be here, believe me, we’re f––– glad to be here.” 

But flight delays caused by biblical flooding in South Florida weren’t the only thing working against Counting Crows on the first date of their national “Oneness Tour.” They also had to open for Santana—a tall order for sure, and one that was difficult to fill, in part due to a fairly languid audience. 

Counting Crows, photo by Rick Munroe (@rickmunroephoto)

To be fair, Counting Crows gave what would have been a great performance for a Counting Crows crowd. Duritz, now approaching 60 and sporting an impressive mane instead of dreadlocks, still delivers the soulful, expressive vocals that made the Crows stand apart from the grunge-dominated pack of ’90s rock. And true to his custom of never singing the same song the same way twice, Duritz tweaked the melodies and threw in a few improvised lyrics.

But this was a Santana crowd. 

Sure, the audience would cheer after every song—particularly following the folksy beats of “Omaha” and the indelible earworm “Mr. Jones”—and the odd audience member would occasionally dance and sing along, especially through the upbeat “Rain King,” but for the most part the crowd seemed content to just sit and wait for the main act, whom they received with more energy than they gave the entirety of the Crows’ 70-minute set. Nonetheless, Counting Crows delivered a solid showing that deserved more from the audience, pulling heavily from their breakthrough record August and Everything After alongside favorites from Recovering the Satellites and Hard Candy, and even a cover of Taylor Swift’s “The 1”. 

Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz, photo by Rick Munroe (@rickmunroephoto)

During the roughly 30-minute intermission between acts, the stage was set with a triple threat of percussion—two drum sets and one conga set—signaling that the crowd was in for a heavy evening. A video played on the stage’s screens of indigenous peoples from around the world dancing and playing music as tribal rhythms played in the background. Then the video stopped, the drums started, and the man himself walked onstage, clad in a black sweatsuit and white fedora, guitar in hand and already shredding away at the instrumental, riff-laden “Toussiant L’Overture.”

A lot of people who are a lot smarter than me have written extensively about Santana’s talent as a guitarist and the jazzy, Latin-tinged blues sound that he pioneered. So all I’ll say is that if true mastery looks effortless, then Carlos Santana is all but peerless. For much of the performance Santana sat on a stool, relaxed and composed while his hands did all the work of deftly tearing into the guitar. But then there were times that he would stand up, and the performance would go into overdrive with mind-bending solos of intense complexity, catapulting the crowd into fervent ecstasy and leaving them in stunned stillness in equal measure. 

Santana, photo by Rick Munroe (@rickmunroephoto)

As has been the case throughout his 50-plus-year career, Santana was happy to let the  limelight shine on his supporting band, which includes his wife, Cindy Blackman Santana, on drums, dual vocalists Ray Greene and Andy Vargas (who also added an extra layer of rhythm with tambourines and maracas), and bassist Benny Rietveld, just to name a few. Each member was given the spotlight, from Rietveld and Cindy Santana, who each delivered booming, racing solos that carried the show’s thunderous momentum between tracks, to Greene and Vargas, whose charismatic stage presence and vocals kept the crowd on their feet for much of the 90-minute set. 

The stage itself also played a huge role in the performance, with the majority of footage on the screens being close-ups of the band, which added a new dimension of appreciation for each member’s challenging work. I still can’t help but wince every time I think about how hard and fast Cindy Santana was kicking her bass drum during a solo for the encore performance of “Soul Sacrifice.” Of course, there were the obligatory psychedelic-infused effects that one would expect from a Santana show, complete with kaleidoscopic imagery onscreen and laser lights shining blue and green through the stage fog.

Santana, photo by Rick Munroe (@rickmunroephoto)

As for the set list, Santana had no shortage of material to pull from, and certainly didn’t disappoint with his selections. From the witchy grooves of “Black Magic Woman” and the danceable favorite “Oye Como Va” off of Abraxas, to the heart-pounding pace of “Jingo” off of his debut, Santana, and the Grammy-winning “Maria Maria” from Supernatural, the very best was selected from an oeuvre that spans more than half a century. 

After wrapping the encore with “Smooth,” Santana left the crowd with a final message: “It’s important that we embrace oneness, harmony and unity,” he said. “We as human beings are capable of bringing peace on earth.”

Counting Crows

Round Here
Miami 
Mr. Jones
Colorblind
Omaha
Recovering the Satellites 
Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby
Goodnight Elisabeth
Anna Begins
Rain King
The 1 (Taylor Swift cover)
A Long December

Santana

Toussaint L’Overture
Jingo
Evil Ways
Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen
Oye Como Va
Everybody’s Everything / Benny Solo
Samba Pa Ti
Hope You’re Feeling Better
She’s Not There (The Zombies cover) / Lava
La Flaca
Yaleo
Put Your Lights On
Corazon Espinado
Maria Maria
Foo Foo

Encore

Soul Sacrifice / Cindy Solo
Smooth


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Tyler Childress
Tyler Childress
Tyler is the Web Editor and a contributing writer for Boca Raton magazine. He writes about food, entertainment and issues affecting South Florida. Send story tips to tyler@bocamag.com.

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