Rob Thomas found his sweet spot at PNC Music Pavilion on Wednesday night: Right in the shadow of the support columns.
“It’s almost oppressively hot, like the kind of heat that’s coming to get you,” he said to the roughly one-third-full venue.
So hot in fact, that about halfway through his 16-song set, Thomas took off his sweat-drenched shirt and put on a new one, which was almost instantly wet again.
The hundreds of shrieking women didn’t seem to mind.
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Despite the heat, Thomas and, later, Counting Crows, delivered fantastic and personable performances.
Dressed in black skinny pants and a dark blue T-shirt, Thomas was confident yet relatable as he twirled his microphone stand during set opener “Fallin’ to Pieces,” strutted back and forth during “Mockingbird” and swiveled his hips during “Smooth.”
He also delivered a sweet and dialed-back rendition of “3 AM,” which was written about Thomas’s experiences as an adolescent watching his mother fight cancer.
But perhaps the most memorable part of Thomas’s set was when he invited his son, Maison Avery Williams Thomas, on stage to perform. Thomas morphed from the smooth, urbane rock star to the doting, goofy father.
His face lit up as his 18-year-old son walked out somewhat bashfully and started playing the opening chords to “Street Corner Symphony,” shooting glances for reassurance to his father.
As the band finished up the song, Thomas playfully took his sweat drenched shirt to his son’s arm as the younger Thomas jerked back in surprise. The two high-fived each other before his son walked off stage.
And during his last song of the night (“This is How A Heart Breaks”), Thomas surprised the crowd when he walked through the front section, stopping to stand on a chair toward the front. By the end, Thomas was back on stage and launching white paper airplanes into the crowd.
Counting Crows’s 16-song performance took the energy level down a notch but was just as engaging as they performed for a – by this time – two-thirds-full venue.
With his dramatic interpretive dance-like movements (such as when he cupped his hands over his face during set opener “Round Here” or when he stiffly held his hands over his heart like a statue during “Colorblind”) and his placid energy, lead singer Adam Duritz seemed at times to be giving a tongue-in-cheek impersonation of an artist who takes himself way too seriously.
And true to their jam-band influences, the Counting Crows put even their most famous songs up for interpretation, slowing down and stretching out “Big Yellow Taxi” and plain-speaking through a lot of “Mr. Jones.”
The Counting Crows continued on to perform such hits as “Hanginaround” and “Long December,” before playing a beautiful rendition of the nostalgic “Palisades Park” (complete with extended trumpet opening) to close out the night.