Counting Crows and Live in Concert at KeyBank; August Wilson’s ‘How I learned What I learned’ Opens at New Hazlett (Thurs., 8/30/18)

1) Counting Crows are celebrating their 25th anniversary with a tour, which stops at KeyBank Pavilion. They released their debut album, August and Everything After, in 1993, at a time when grunge dominated alternative rock radio. But Adam Duritz’s voice and the rest of the group’s Americana instrumentation harked more to Van Morrison and The Band than to Nirvana or Pearl Jam. Yet listeners fell in love with their sound and August … went on to sell 7 million copies in the U.S. alone. The rest of the Berkeley, California, band’s career breaks down roughly as follows: more ’90s hits, an Oscar nomination for Shrek 2’s “Accidentally in Love,” a covers album, and 2014’s Somewhere Under Wonderland, arguably their best work since 1999’s This Desert Life. Songs like “Palisades Park” display Duritz at his poetic peak. Live, who hail from York, Pennsylvania, open. They achieved multi-platinum success with their sophomore studio album, 1994’s Throwing Copper. Hits include “I Alone” and “Lightning Crashes.” 6:30 p.m. 665 Rt. 18, Burgettstown. (CM)

Wali Jamal Abdullah has acted in all of August Wilson's 'Cycle' plays; now he's Wilson in 'How I Learned What I Learned.'

Wali Jamal Abdullah has acted in all of August Wilson’s ‘Cycle’ plays; now he’s Wilson in ‘How I Learned What I Learned.’

2) Most people know that August Wilson wrote 10 major plays; fewer know about the 11th. Unlike the 10 in his famous Pittsburgh Cycle, which are fictional, How I Learned What I Learned is a one-man show full of true tales from Wilson’s life. Friends of the late playwright recall him as a world-class talker who could keep them spellbound for hours with stories of things he’d seen and done—and, after years of toying with the idea, he agreed to make an actual stage performance out of the stuff. Wilson co-wrote How I Learned with friend and dramaturg Todd Kreidler, who wisely had taken notes during some of the talkathons. Wilson himself performed the play only once, for a benefit event in 2003 in his then-hometown of Seattle. He hoped it’d become a piece to be done by an actor, but after his death in 2005 the script lay dormant until revivals began a few years ago—notably, at Pittsburgh Public Theater, with Eugene Lee as Wilson.

Now comes a new production. This indie venture is launched and performed by Wali Jamal Abdullah, no stranger to Wilson’s work. Jamal Abdullah has acted in all 10 Pittsburgh Cycle plays. With How I Learned What I Learned, he claims he’ll be the first to cover the entire Wilson oeuvre. How I Learned has gotten strong reviews in many cities, praised both as a portrait of a great artist and as just plain good theater. Since the play focuses on Wilson’s youth-to-adulthood years in Pittsburgh, there’s not a better city in which to see it. New Hazlett Theater. 8 p.m. Performances continue through September 1. 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side. (MV)

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Rick Handler

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