We headed out to the Nob Hill Masonic Theater last night to see Mean Creek, Tender Mercies and Counting Crows. I had never seen any of them and while Counting Crows were one of the seminal bands of my teenage years, Tender Mercies were kind of like the Eddie and the Cruisers of that era. They made really good music covered by everyone and were really well regarded in the Bay Area. I’d never heard of Mean Creek, but was told by Adam Duritz, as he introduced them that they were from Boston.
So before I go on, do you want the good news or the bad news first? I guess I’ll start with the bad news and go out on a high note. Mean Creek was an awful band. Not bad, no they were terrible. The lead singer was like a 15 year old at a backyard show saying things like, “This song is about having no fear, man. Because, because when you have no fear then there’s nothing that can stand in your way.” These declarations of what every song was about would have been interesting if, perhaps, this was an episode of VH1’s Storytellers or the songs were even remotely good. The lead singer of Mean Creek seems like he’s about one day’s worth of missed meds towards a nervous breakdown. If I had to choose Mean Creek or a heroin overdose I’m not sure which I’d choose.
The other bad news was that Counting Crows did not play their seminal hit, “Mr. Jones” and that was only the second most surprising thing of the show (I’ll get to the first later). Now that that is out of the way, on to the good news. The Crows were dynamic, with Duritz playing the part of a theatrical lead singer to perfection. They rocked out and played it soft. They were everything we expected them to be and more. Funny, charismatic, energetic, all of this even though Duritz said he had been sick for the past three days. They covered the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil”, Tender Mercies “Mercy” and Teenage Fan Club’s “Start Again” which Duritz described as almost therapeutic for the band.
Despite the surprising omission of their greatest song Counting Crows played just about every other song you’d want them to play and didn’t just play them, but destroyed them. They played like it was their last show ever. One of the problems with the venue is that it is entirely seated so the energy from the crowd is sort of sucked away since no one can really dance or get close to the stage. It would be difficult for most bands to even succeed in such a circumstance, but Counting Crows excelled as did Tender Mercies.
Tender Mercies, a band whose album I reviewed and who’s lead guitarist and part-time singer, Dan Vickrey also guitarist for Counting Crows) I interviewed. I expected them to be pretty good. I’ve been speaking a lot lately about opening acts and their tendency to tamper down the excitement so that most of the adulation goes to the headliner. Tender mercies did no such thing. They were not only energetic they actually got a fairly diverse crowd to get out of their seats and move around. I would call it dancing, but as we all know most white people do not dance well and this crowd was no exception. The attempts at dancing from my vantage point were so clearly atrocious that I felt like I was on some SNL skit.
Patrick Winningham and Vickrey had such amazing chemistry on stage as they switched up vocal roles and played the song from their self-titled debut that I enjoyed so much. They were the biggest surprise of the night and maybe even the best band. It’s harder for the middle band to get much recognition, because they’re sandwiched in, but Tender Mercies were phenomenal at the Nob Hill Masonic Theater last night. They absolutely are everything we wanted them to be 20 years ago. They, like Eddie and the Cruisers II, are back from the dead and playing better than ever. The hope is that this is just a step toward many more years of playing. Despite an opening act that should be playing at random house parties, the show was brilliant and after 20 years of waiting to see two really great bands we were not disappointed in the slightest.