There were more than a few empty seats at last night’s double-header of 1990s mallrock nostalgia at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena. Co-headliners Counting Crows and Matchbox Twenty were always fighting an uphill battle with their B.C. concert scheduling: the twin temptations of the Vancouver Folk Festival and a fresh season of Game of Thrones both keeping fans away from a musical journey into the recent past.

Time has been kind to Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz. Still sporting the mop of dreadlocks, cuddly physique and aura of sensitive scruffiness that led him to a string of high profile girlfriends back in the 90s; the passing years have yet to dim his still-impressive vocal talents. They were on full display during an opening salvo of “Hard Candy” and “Omaha,” Duritz crooning a sizeable chunk of the latter while perched on a monitor.

In Pictures:  A double bill of nostalgia at Rogers Arena

Although theoretically a rock band, Counting Crows do not rock. Instead, their specialty is the art of introspection: folk, country and the softest of soft rock blending to create a conduit for Duritz’s heartfelt lyrics. This aesthetic reached its zenith during the crystal-fragile “Colorblind,” but showed its entertainment value limitations during a rendition of “Goodnight Elisabeth” that incorporated a countrified version of The Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes” that may have roused the ghost of Lou Reed into haunting the band for eternity. Likewise, their injection of a loose funk groove while surgically removing the best melodies from Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” was a fine demonstration of how to destroy a Canadian classic.

The crowd were eventually prised from their seats with a finale of “Mr Jones” and “Hanginaround.” But although no one could claim that Duritz and co weren’t putting their heart into their performance, the party people of Rogers Arena were craving something more, well, lively.

As if on cue, Matchbox Twenty arrived delivering exactly what the crowd desired, “Girl Like That” and “She’s So Mean” launching a greatest hits set with a pair of high-speed powerpop belters, fronted by a none-more-enthusiastic and permanently bouncy Rob Thomas refusing to take his role as a rock star seriously.

“Every time Adam [Duritz] opens his mouth to sing,” he beamed, eager to demonstrate how much he enjoyed his touring partners’ set, “it feels like a hug to me.”

That pace and passion could never last, and by the time the set reached syrupy Elton John-style ballads “All I Need” and “If You’re Gone,” only the truly devoted remained on their feet. Not that this was of any concern to Thomas and his team. Comfortable in the knowledge that their biggest hits were ready to be rolled out, the grand finale of “Unwell,” “Back 2 Good” and “Push” taking Rogers Arena back to the late 90s with big choruses and post-grunge guitars.

Perhaps the time has come to reassess these bands’ legacies. Because while rock orthodoxy states that critically lauded, punk-influenced bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Sonic Youth were among the American rock trailblazers of the 1990s, when considering this decade’s biggest bands, it’s tough to identify their immediate descendents. Yet you can hear echoes of Counting Crows in the music of Mumford and Sons, while Maroon 5 and OneRepublic both revel in the pop hooks and mainstream immediacy of Matchbox Twenty.

Not that the Rogers Arena crowd was worried about any of this. They were too busy singing along to Matchbox Twenty’s “3am” to concern themselves with such trivialities.