Who needs 'Accidentally In Love' when the audience is already so very intentionally in love?
It's not often you get to go back to square one nearly 20 years into your career. On most nights, Frank Turner is playing for well over an hour to audiences that not only know every word to every song, they often have tattoos bearing said words. Tonight, however, he's got 30 minutes in front of a crowd that largely is coming to him completely blind. Rather than see this as some sort of demotion or step back, the English troubadour is revelling in the opportunity to share his story with a completely new audience. From recent tales of marriage (The Work) and trans parent transparency (Miranda) to not going gently into that good night (Long Live the Queen), Turner's throat-tearing storytelling is quick to pique the interest of the unfamiliar. All the while, pockets of pre-established fans in the room are reminded of how they first fell for the singer-songwriter all those years ago. It's sadly an all too brief dalliance with Turner, but he's quick to share some good news before his spirited finale of I Still Believe: Not only will he and his band return to Australia this November, they will be playing this very theatre. To go from complete stranger to part of the congregation in half an hour flat – that's the power of Frank Turner as a live performer.
On the verge of 30 years within the mainstream, Counting Crows maintain a curious reckoning – a defiance, even – with their success. Consider this: There are three singles in the band's canon that have elevated them to the pointy end of the top 40 here in Australia. Not only do they not play two of those songs, but the one they do (Mr Jones) is played third overall and given a shape-shifting vocal rework by frontman Adam Duritz. This is not pointed out to negate the band or deride their creative choices; rather, it's done to illustrate just what mavericks they have become. They're unabashedly happy to be touring again, especially as far away from home as Sydney, but they're here to do things on their terms rather than ours.
Of course, once we're settled in past the initial shock of the Mr Jones power move, we're happy to hand the reins over to the beloved New York pop-rock septet – after all, they know exactly what they're doing. They strip to bare bones on the vulnerable Colorblind and a tender When I Dream Of Michelangelo, they steadily build skyscraping monuments on Round Here and Recovering The Satellites, and they even prove that they have creative juices left in the tank on the sweeping Bobby and the Rat-Kings from 2021's Butter Miracle EP. Duritz is a fidgeting, excitable and endearingly awkward frontman, while multi-instrumentalist David Immerglück adds his own unique on-stage flair through blitzing guitar and mandolin shredding, and keyboardist Charlie Gillingham comes out of his stage-left shell when wielding an accordion. This line-up of the band has remained solid for some 18 years now, and that degree of interconnectivity comes through no matter what song they're performing.
The crowd positively lights up during Rain King, which gives Duritz a rare rockstar moment to stick his wireless microphone out to the thousands in attendance to create a makeshift choir. Immerglück calls for an arena-rock wave during A Long December, and it's so perfectly cheesy that we can't help but oblige. Frank Turner makes a welcome return to the stage to take the second verse on Hanginaround, which he takes utter delight in – as does everyone both on and off the stage. It may all be on their terms, but a Counting Crows show is a thoroughly communal experience. Who needs Accidentally In Love when the audience is already so very intentionally in love?