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This review is from: August And Everything After - Live From Town Hall (Audio CD)
Counting Crows are a phenomenal live band. I'm tempted to say that these versions of the songs from August and Everything After are the best. But the truth is they are different, not just from the original album, but also other live recordings. The upbeat version of the Rain King medleyed with Thunder Road is amazing but is it better than the tender, sweet version that opens New Amsterdam: Live At Heineken Music Hall [Australian Imp.]? On that recording Adam Duritz's voice sounded often tender and fragile, which gave the songs a sense of poignancy. Here he thunders like a rock god. And I can't say which I like better.
All the tracks from August and Everything After are present, including Raining in Baltimore which, although not mentioned on the tracklisting, is medleyed with Round Here and the Sordid Humor song Private Archipelago, to form one epic raw nerve of a song lasting just short of 12 minutes. They use the same strategy with Murder of One, blending in Red Hill Mining Town by U2 and Dorris Day (also by Sordid Humor), and Perfect Blue Buildings, which contains Miller's Angels and Sometimes it Snows in April by Prince. So there is a lot of material presented here.
If the vocals are raw, the music is polished with piano and organ providing a framework filled out by guitars, mandolin, pedal steel guitar and underpinned by bass and drums. The sound is never overbearing but it always feels full. And Dan Vickrey's guitar work, which I'll admit I'm not always 100% convinced by, is spot on here. This album has an amazing atmosphere, the crowd joining in the choruses and giving rapturous applause. The band must have been enjoying it, because they respond with passionate performances, Adam Duritz in particular brings out the drama in each song sometimes letting the band fade out while he repeat a single phrase in a tender crying voice, letting the effect become hypnotic. At other times he'll launch into a thunderous versions of tunes we know, extracting pure joy from Mr Jones, and haunting menace from Ghost Train.
His digressions between the songs are amusing too, he tells us how he missed out on getting the key to the city in Omaha, and how a girlfriend who lived a long drive away inspired a Counting Crows classic. (And kudos to whoever did the tracklisting on the CD because the intros are on tracks of their own if you feel like programming them out.)
So, if you are a Counting Crows fan, don't hesitate. They seem to be one of the last few bands who aren't afraid to mess with their songs live and present something really different. Consider how many epic bands (like Muse) just devote themselves to recreating their albums in perfect detail. Every live recording from the Crows is worth having on it's own merits (especially New Amsterdam), but this should be on your list.