Sunday 16 June 2019

Review of Blues Fest 2018: There are some songs that make your spine shiver, like this one

Alison Krauss and Counting Crows. 3 Arena Dublin Saturday 27th October 2018

Adam Duritz of the band Counting Crows Photo: Getty Images
Adam Duritz of the band Counting Crows Photo: Getty Images
Deirdre Conroy

Deirdre Conroy

There are some songs that make your spine shiver. The captivating a cappella version of “Go down to the river to pray”, the slave song sung by Alison Krauss on the soundtrack of the Coen Brothers movie “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” was a great reason to see her at Dublin’s BluesFest last night.

The bluegrass-country singer filled the auditorium with her southern high notes, combined with superb musicians from the Union Station band and The Cox Family. Most people leave the capital city on a bank holiday weekend, but it was easy to see why such a huge Irish audience turned up for Krauss’s take on the country music we are so familiar with. The stage set was theatrical, styled on a Nashville street, filled with banjo, fiddles, accordion, double bass and the bonus electric guitar riffs of James Mitchell. 

Her set combined ‘non-bluegrass’ covers including ‘Baby, Now That I’ve Found You’ and dark moments of ‘Ghost in This House’, ‘Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground’ and stretched to soothing lullaby’s. Krauss has had an illustrious 30-year career winning 27 Grammy Awards, sold over 12 million albums and collaborated with Robert Plant [who will take to the BluesFest stage tonight], Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift, Kenny Rogers, Emmylou Harris and James Taylor.

Headline act, Counting Crows took off in 1993 with the release of their debut album “August and Everything After’ which featured the hit single “Mr. Jones” and that certainly got the audience rocking last night. More well known to our youth is “Accidentally in Love” which was Oscar nominated having been on the film soundtrack of Shrek 2. 

The dreadlock-heavy frontman Adam Duritz announces to the audience that this year is their 25th anniversary or “whatever the f**k that is” and launches straight into storytelling mode. All through the concert he gives an insight into the moment his lyrics took form. The music and anecdotes are backed up on a huge screen by clever videos and glorious images of road trips through rural America, where he wrote ‘God of Ocean Tides’. And classic New York cityscapes of his home place where the song ‘Washington Square’ evolved.  Unlike most concerts, the narrative between the songs, takes you to the place he is singing about, not where you are sitting. The sensitivity of his lyrics and soulful vocal expression is so reminiscent of the 1990’s, an era before the world changed with social media, and when Counting Crows were influenced by Van Morrison [who also takes to the stage this evening at BluesFest], R.E.M., Bob Dylan and The Band. 

Duritz says he has played on this site before it grew into the huge-scale arena, when it was The Point Depot and when he loved the back-stage Harry’s Bar. ‘There is nothing sadder than a bar that’s gone,’ he says. Aside from all the great performances, including ‘Omaha’, ‘Scarecrow’, ‘Colorblind’, ‘Hanginaround’, that comment fully immersed him with the audience. 

On a very cold night in Dublin, hearing Alison Krauss and Adam Duritz with their polished musicians, in a warm stadium felt like being in Nashville and California for 3 hours of musical bliss.

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