Occasionally, in this day and ages case, very occasionally, a band comes along that offers something very good. Very, very good. They have talent, the capabilities, beautiful and magnificent musicianship, and could astound you in any form, whether they're fully-fledged rockers, beautiful ballads, or both cut down to their rawest form. And then an extra bonus is that they are a fantastic live band. Counting Crows are one of those bands. Except rather than being amazing in the studio before donning their shoes and going live and proving a brilliant show piece, they are more known for their wonderful live performances than their out of this world, bizarre studio skills. "Across A Wire: Live In New York City", gives you not just one show but two shows, both very different and very diverse, and once more laying a stake in the fact that Counting Crows are one of the best bands you are likely to here in modern times...
It's also worth noting that 'Across A Wire' was released back in 1998, just two albums into the Crows career, which many other bands were doing at the time, usually to much critical scoffing. The difference between those and Counting Crows is that CC are so differing in each and every show, it's like having a studio album in itself. Strangely, I'm going to tell you about disc 2 first. Disc 2 consists of the final tour date in New York City on the 'Recovering The Satellites' tour, as noted by Adam Duritz at least once, and contains many of the Crows classics from their first two albums, 'August And Everything After' and 'Recovering The Satellites'. Opening in lively fashion to their latter's title track, you just know that this is going to be the greatest show on earth...A near perfect version of 'Angels Of The Silences' is a great little ear opener, but is nothing when compared to Counting Crows sublime ability to almost read each others minds, and improvise and enhance songs, make them longer, add new sections and new passages and new lyrics on the spot. 'A Long December', features a fine piano opening to stir the fans, before kicking in to the opening of the song, which was always going to drive the delirious fans absolutely potty, never mind having a fine piano and organ opening. That which makes the Crows the most unique show on earth crops up a lot, but is most notable in the sublime 10 minute extended version of their early classic, 'Round Here', including sections from 'Have You Seen Me Lately?' almost effortlessly, adding more and more new musical sections, that don't grow tired, making a classic 4 minutes or so into over 10 classic moments...Duritz, the tainted gentlemen as ever, ends the show by thanking the support act...again...and tells people all about the causes that the Crows support and what the fans could do, before finishing with a perfect version of 'Walkaways', making this an essential show for the Counting Crows fan, and for the generally extravagant, and it just goes to show once you've heard it, you'll understand why they're bootlegged quite so much.
Disc 1 consists of the VH1 Storytellers show, which in actual fact turns out to be more like an MTV Unplugged session, and certainly the highlight of 2 terrific discs. While making classics such as 'Round Here', and 'Mr Jones' (with Duritz opening with the words 'This is a song about my dreams' before opening with a haunting guitar line), and 'Anna Begins', while proving that even upbeat Crows songs can sound just as good in acoustic mode, if not better, in the likes of 'Angels Of The Silences', 'Rain King', and most startling of all, an acoustic rendition of 'Have You Seen Me Lately?', which is usually very bouncy, which not only betters the original, it makes it seem very average. The only shame is that this is a VH1 Storytellers session, and as someone who has heard Matchbox 20's session in the seats, perhaps a few more words from Duritz and the boys about the songs wouldn't have gone without appreciation. Then again, these are songs that can be taken anyway by anyone, so why spoil a good thing? A stunning piece of Counting Crows.
So while a double live recording after just two albums might seem a little ambitious, it's worth noting that Counting Crows are probably the most ambitious bands in the world today. They seem flawless and no matter what they do seems to come up roses, and despite Duritz's often rants about being famous and the pressures it has, you would never want a band like this to stop until they drop, which won't be for a long time judging on the energy, and power that surge through these songs. While this is certainly not a starting point for anyone wanting to get into this underrated band, it's an essential live addition for anyone who can even just vaguely stand them. Duritz may be the rain king, but the contrast of these two records adds a little bit of sunshine to any rainy day.