Across A Wire - Live In New York City

Counting Crows

DGC Records, 1998

http://www.countingcrows.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/14/1998

According to the press release for the latest Counting Crows release Across A Wire - Live In New York City, Adam Duritz and company are quickly becoming one of the most bootlegged bands of this time. I found this kind of funny, as I've always thought of Counting Crows as a band that has to grow on you. I have yet to appreciate Recovering The Satellites, an album that I thought was recorded on Valium.

However, on this specially-priced "for the fans" set, Duritz and crew show two different sides to their music, and create an album that, for the most part, should attract more interest to the band.

This two-disc set is made up of two separate shows recorded for MTV networks (the acoustic set for VH-1's "Storytellers," the electric set for MTV's "Live From The 10 Spot"). There is minimal track overlapping - and not surprisingly, one version tends to stand out over another. What might shock people is that the acoustic work tends to stick out better.

Starting with just acoustic guitar and vocals on "Round Here," Duritz adds even a little more pathos to a song that could have come out of a Sartre novel, and makes it hauntingly beautiful. As more band members join in on "Have You Seen Me Lately?" this track quickly turns into one that should have been a hit (and still could be, if this version is chosen as a single).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The selections for this acoustic set show a new side to Counting Crows that I wish I had heard a long time ago. "Mr. Jones," a song that suffers from chronic overplay on alternative radio, has a new zest kicked into it. (Is that a different live version on the radio, or did they just edit the word "fuck" out? I can't tell.) Other radio hits like "Angels Of The Silences" and "Rain King" also sound like brand new songs with the new direction they're taken in. Other tracks like "Anna Begins" also show their true colors.

The only negative thing about the first disc of Across A Wire - Live In New York City is the nearly six minutes of hearing a record caught in a groove (yes, I was dumb enough to listen to the whole damned thing), only to kick into an uncredited, hidden track. Actually, this is the weakest moment on this disc, a song that tends to break the mood that was created with the live show by apparently returning to the studio. (If I knew the title of the song, I'd list it.)

The second half of Across A Wire - Live In New York City puts the electricity back into the instruments (truth be told, there is a little electric guitar on the first disc), and Duritz and crew return to the sound they've become known for. But unlike some of their recent studio efforts, Duritz actually sounds energetic, and that makes all the difference for this show.

But the one drawback to doing a acoustic/electric album quickly comes through, as the electric versions of "Rain King" and "Have You Seen Me Lately?" don't live up to the first versions in the set. However, "Round Here" does show what additional magic an electric guitar can throw into the mix.

Familiar tracks like "A Murder Of One" stand out on this disc, while some of the lesser-known tracks such as "Sullivan Street" and "Children In Bloom" will have more appeal for the diehard fan than the casual dabbler. (And even though this live version has a little more oomph behind it, I still don't like "A Long December".)

Across A Wire - Live In New York City is not meant to replace the two studio efforts of Counting Crows; rather, they enhance those albums, and they do a fine job of it. However, if you don't like particular selections from the band, chances are this set won't change your mind about those tracks. (What it should do is stir up curiosity about the other albums - as this disc has with me. You know I'll be digging out August And Everything After from the Pierce Archives post haste.)

Counting Crows are a powerful live band, though Across A Wire - Live In New York City shows they pack more power in their acoustic work, a side of the band many of us have never heard before. Still, this is an entertaining set overall that is much better than your typical live albums, and is a winner for fans and the uninitiated alike.

Rating: B+

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of DGC Records, and is used for informational purposes only.