Counting Crows? Are you sure that's not (yawn!) Counting Sheep?

Sure the music was loud, the lights even brighter. But there was something . . . so very dull, even sleep-inducing, about the tasteful pop/rock and folk-rock set San Francisco's Counting Crows performed before a sold-out crowd at Kingsbury Hall Sunday night.Maybe it was the overly gentle music, which inspired more swaying from audience members than gale-force winds could possibly cause. Perhaps it was the same arrangements to most of the songs. More likely it was the downright pretentious and stuffy song imagery - heck, vocalist/songwriter Adam Duritz's aspirations to be "the next Van Morrison" are even phonier than his hair-woven dreadlocks.

Of course, all of those things would be tolerable if the group didn't take itself so seriously (coming onstage to the strains of "California Dreaming" should have been the tip-off).

For example, as Duritz crooned portentous lyrics about shooting stars in the song "Recovering the Satellites," a light-bulbed image of a shooting star suddenly lit up, as if to add emphasis (I'm not making this up, folks).

And "Mr. Jones," one of the Crows' biggest hits, suffered from a bluesy rearrangement, as if the band were admitting, "We're not taken seriously when we play up-tempo, so we'll slow things down."

Even more laughable were the rock-star routines lead guitarist Dan Vickrey and multi-instrumentalist Charles Gillingham pulled during their respective instrumental solos - posing as if they were cranking out power chords rather than strums and jangles (and Gillingham was actually playing the accordion at the time!).

This isn't to say that the band is completely intolerable or that its playing is somewhat faulty - although Ben Mize's drumming was overly busy. In fact, the vocal harmonies between Duritz, Vickrey, Gillingham and Mize were quite pretty at times, and jaunts into near-country territory weren't nearly as goofy as the rest.

And it should be noted that the crowd ate all this up with great relish, so maybe there's something to be said for musical mediocrity (after all, the "blandness" formula has worked in television with "Beverly Hills 90210" and in dining with the McDonald's fast-food franchise).

Much more tasty (to this fussy critic, at least) was opening act that dog, an L.A.-based avant-pop combo, built around alluring two-part and three-part vocal harmonies (from guitarist Anna Waronker, bass guitarist Rachel Haden and violinist Petra Haden) - possibly the best female vocal melodies this side of dearly departed Washington, D.C., act Velocity Girl.

Previewing material from "Third Tree From the Sun," its upcoming third full-length, the five-piece played no-frills guitar-pop that was as catchy as it was simple.