Double bills = total crap for music geeks

August 21st, 2008

First, the excitement: one of my favorite bands is coming to town. Then, the disappointment: they’ll be sharing the bill.

A double bill sounds like a good idea: two bands, presumably with a crossover fan base, touring together. But, for those in the know, it’s not exactly an enticing prospect. Translation: Less music from your favorite band(s) for a higher price.

The Counting Crows and Maroon 5 shared the bill last weekend at Nissan. The Counting Crows, one of my favorite bands, have been pretty much MIA for the last four or five years. They’re also touring in support of a very strong new album, “Saturday Nights, Sunday Mornings.”

I’ve seen them twice before. Once, sharing the bill with Live and another time headlining. Guess which concert was better? With Live, they only played about 10 songs. True, one of those was a 10-minute version of “Rain King” with Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” in its entirety at the bridge, but it still seemed like a tease. Plus, and I noticed this more at the full concert, but lead singer Adam Duritz has a penchant to change up songs to a point where they’re nearly unrecognizable.

The Crows toured with Live and Collective Soul last summer, playing minor league baseball stadiums across America. Yeah, it’s a pretty neat idea for three 1990s holdovers, but I passed. I didn’t want to drop the cash too hear “Mr. Jones,” “Accidentally In Love” and only a few other songs.

The idea of a double bill is great for people who only know and enjoy the bands’ radio hits. If the band configures the set list correctly, they’ll have the opportunity to introduce concertgoers to non-singles and maybe sell a few albums.

But for the fans, it’s pretty much a huge disappointment, especially if they don’t care about the other band on the bill.

I was hoping Maroon 5 would play last. I’m indifferent toward their music. Adam Levine writes good pop songs, but they’re really not for me. A friend of mine caught the tour in Jones Beach, Long Island. He told me “Maroon 5 are ugly, so you can leave after Counting Crows are done.” Besides, the post-concert parking lot at Nissan is basically a disaster so any chance of leaving before the mass exodus would’ve been great.

No such luck. The Crows closed out the show at Nissan. I sat through the Maroon 5 set in its entirety (save a bathroom break during the head-scratching encore of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World”). My sister enjoyed it (but not as much as the high school girls sitting next to us and certainly way more than I did). Maroon 5 wasn’t bad. They just… were.

The Crows, on the other hand, played the best (abbreviated) set I’ve seen them perform. The choices were tailor made for the crowd—a fair amount of hits (played closer to the album versions), a smattering of new songs and some better non-radio tracks. From where I was sitting, the crowd didn’t really get to their feet until late in the set, during “A Long Decem-ber.” The high school girls next to us had long since departed.

Mission accomplished for the Crows. The crowd got into it and there were enough deeper cuts to keep people like me satisfied, wanting more (they also played more than 10 songs). But it was a pretty mismatched bill. Maroon 5’s success came almost a decade after “August and Everything After.” As much as I love them, the Counting Crows are basically a nostalgia act at this point. Maroon 5’s got a few more years (thanks, Kanye West). Certainly they have crossover fans, probably coeds who swooned over Adam Duritz’s lyrics at summer camp and Adam Levine’s good looks in college.

A double bill only works if the concertgoer is only a casual fan of both groups. If they love one band but are indifferent—or worse, don’t care for—the other, there’s no point. But if they know the radio hits and maybe have a few Mp3s on their iPod, it might be worth it.

I could see myself getting excited for a double bill of… looking through my playlist… nothing, actually. I’m a pretty big music geek, the kind that has to know everything about all the bands I like, all the albums, all the B-sides and all the bootlegs. I’d much rather see a band I love play a full show with all the hits, misses and surprises in a venue with other fans, not some divided Jets/Sharks crowd.

But there are some things worse for a great band to tour with a co-headliner: breaking up before their fans get a chance to see them.

Staff writer Josh Eiserike can be reached at 703-878-8072.

2 comments to “Double bills = total crap for music geeks”

  1. How about TMBG and Sapphire Bullets?

  2. I don’t think that counts. Sapphire Bullets was the opening band, TMBG played a full set… or would have, had we not had to catch the Metro.