As Bluesfest kicked off on Thursday the mud had already set in, and so begins five days of gumboots, media coverage focusing unusually closely on the mud, and of course the best lineup of blues and roots music to be found in the southern hemisphere.
Bluesfest were quick to announce a series of last-minute replacements that included brother-and-sister darlings Angus & Julia Stone as well as Boy & Bear among others.
Stepping up to Lenny Kravitz’s vacant headline spot was Counting Crows on their first show of an Australian tour. While the impact Kravitz might have had will never be known, it’s fair to say that Counting Crows closed out the first night of Bluesfest 2015 in a manner worthy of a headliner — if only they were given a full headline amount of time which they deserved, instead of a rushed 75 minutes.
Counting Crows are known for their wide and varying shows that reward longtime fans with rarities, new material and no inherent regard for expectations of hit-seeking punters. As their last performance at Bluesfest in 2013 demonstrated, even hearing their breakout hit ‘Mr Jones’ at a festival isn’t a guarantee. Like Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band or Bob Dylan, there’s simply no easy answer as to what they’ll play from night to night.
Fans — as well as casual observers who went along for the ride — would attest, last night’s show didn’t disappoint. This time around they got Mr Jones out of the way early in the set, which meant fly-by-night fans quickly vacated space for those in for the long haul. Those that stuck around were treated to an intimately engaging performance that lasted right through until closing moments when lead singer Adam Duritz joined the crowd in a singalong of The Mama’s & the Papas’ California Dreamin’ as it played through the PA With four songs from their first album, and four from their latest album the set covered all in between.
Highlights included an emotionally charged rendition of Colorblind from 1996’s Recovering the Satellites, the pop-drived Earthquake Driver from 2014’s Somewhere Under Wonderland (Liz’s favourite song) and a sprawling Rain King from 1993’s August and Everything After that included a stream-of-conscious detour into Springsteen’s Thunder Road.
Bluesfest once again delivered a cracking opening day, and have set impeccably high standards for the long weekend.