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Anybody familiar with either The Band's Rolling Thunder Revue or Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen will immediately get what Counting Crows are up to. They've dubbed their current tour the "Saturday Night Rebel Rockers Traveling Circus and Medicine Show," and the idea behind it takes a page from those musical forebears.
The legendary tours by The Band and Cocker assembled a large gaggle of like-minded musicians, who then hit the road and the stage en masse. No opening acts, no straight sets, and no outright headliners — just a stage full of sound souls playing together as any given moment struck them. In The Band's case, things pretty much revolved around Bob Dylan (though Joan Baez had her songs too), and the Mad Dogs basically began and ended with Joe Cocker (with the great Leon Russell leading things along). But the two experiments proved that when you put together a nice number of topnotch players, there's a damn good chance that magic will be made.
Such is the big idea behind the Traveling Circus and Medicine Show, a caravan that consists of Counting Crows, Michael Franti & Spearhead, and Augustana. The Crows may be the best known of the three acts, and singer Adam Duritz might be the tour's brainchild. But each band doesn't just get equal play — everyone gets to play together, throughout the entire evening.
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That means when the curtain rises, everybody is gonna be onstage at once, and Crows songs and Spearhead songs and Augustana songs will all intermingle. Word is the gang also plays a woolly array of cover tunes and that the set changes every night. Add the fact that Franti will be back after a sidelining ruptured appendix, and that Durwitz could crack at any moment, and you've got more than a few good reasons to arrive on time.
And if you're still not convinced, this show marks the official reopening of the beautifully redone Bayfront Park Amphitheater. After a yearlong, multimillion-dollar overhaul by Live Nation, downtown Miami's star-covered, 6,000-seat venue is back in action. There will be actual seats instead of benches, VIP boxes for the well heeled, and the kind of high-impact sound and light system that'll help re-instill the magic in this Magic City signature spot. And if we're all lucky, it'll also help spark the magic that this Traveling Circus plans to create. Hey, it's worth a shot.