Thursday, June 22, 2006

Counting Crows Live

First, they played with the Goo Goo Dolls, a band I didn’t have any particular feeling towards going in but now just do not like. Their act didn’t have an ounce of life in it, and I wondered if there was any real point in coming out with a new album when they’re clearly content (though not at all thrilled) to play “Iris” and “Give A Little Bit” from town to town. Anyway, completely bland and forgettable, not unlike so much of their work.

The Crows, however, were a different story altogether. I was talking about this with Ben last night, how there are some bands I truly dig their music and in many ways simply admire (Zeppelin, The Beatles), but only have a loose connection with emotionally. Their music is fantastic, but it mostly doesn’t hit me in a specific way, nor do I have a great memory tied to it. On the other hand, there are bands that it’s almost all emotion, where their music hits a certain viewpoint or feeling I’ve always had, or I have a very specific memory in which their music resonated with me (The Beach Boys and Queen are probably the two best examples…also Joni Mitchell). With the Crows, it all started when I saw them in concert three years ago, as they were playing with John Mayer, who I immediately regretted actually wanting to see. But the Crows, a band I was only scarcely familiar with, blew me away. They had a whole set-up onstage that included (electric) candles, and front-man Adam Duritz half-grooved, and half-hobbled around stage, as much engrossed in the melody as the rest of us. This is something that can come off as a little self-righteous, but not to me; not this time at least.

Though they changed the look of the show (a little more traditional-light-heavy, which worked big time for them during “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby”), the feel was the same, and now that I’m actually familiar with their work a bit more, noticed a number of other things. First, their songs are very, very different when they perform them live than their studio releases. Not unlike Zeppelin, the Crows do relatively tight, focused studio tracks, and then unleash a more free-form, expressive version of the song onstage. Which, if you’re anything like me and demand something you can’t buy on CD when you see a band live (and that something has to go beyond “they’re playing right in front of you”), is the best thing ever.

They started off a tad shaky as “Recovering the Satellites” and especially “Hard Candy” were almost exact duplicates of their studio tracks, and they were using a lot of video to back them up (which ultimately destroyed any chance the Dolls had with me), but by the time they went into “Mrs. Potter,” here were the Crows I fell for in 2003. Duritz wandered the stage almost aimlessly, rocked out as he sung, and changed or expanded on many of the lyrics, making for a similar, yet very different experience from listening to the album. And he held out the mic the first few times for the “talk! to! me!” which I’m a big fan of. They continued their free-form, expressive style throughout, giving the fans something new as often as they could. I’ve heard “Mr. Jones” and “Hangin’ Around” a thousand times (and still love them both to death), but never like this. It wasn’t just that it was there right in front of me…they lyrics were different, parts were dropped entirely. They were completely different songs, but still with the exact same mood and feel to them. It’s really hard to describe, but it’s the best experience you can get in a live show because you couldn’t hope to capture it in audio alone…the tech work and the band’s energy just flows from the stage, all the way to the lawn seats my brother and I had.

They didn’t just play the hits, either, which is always nice. Besides giving me something I can’t get on CD, a huge bonus for me at a concert is when they don’t play a song or two that I’d love to hear (in this case, I wanted “Round Here” the whole time but came up empty), but it doesn’t bother me in the least. There was no “Accidentally in Love” or “Big Yellow Taxi,” but fantastic renditions of “Goodnight Elizabeth” (which, it turns out, is about a girl from Lake Oswego…fun fact) and most definitely “Richard Manuel is Dead.” And hearing “A Long December” and “Holiday in Spain” (a fantastic choice for an encore song, it turned out) just killed me all over again.

It was the first show of their tour, and it felt every bit like it. It may all be part of show business, but the feeling I got watching it was a band giving their all, part out of love for the fans but mostly just for love of playing the music and being onstage together.

What a great band.


Katie said...

Mmkay, so, I like the Goo Goo Dolls. Not enough to buy their latest CD, but I just wanted to hear Slide and Iris and Black Balloon, so I was happy, and I liked watching the one guy (the guy who sings on some of the tracks but isn't the lead singer) rock out way more hard core than the Goo Goo Dolls are at all.

The Counting Crows were *amazing*. I'll try and post a picture, if I can, if not, they'll be on facebook. But the concert was awesome, Adam Duritz is fantastic (but god, so much older than I expected, dunno why). And of course my sister and I freaked out when Adam Duritz mentioned Lake Oswego...and so did the guy in front of us whose wallet we had found and returned like half an hour before...and who is apparently in the same fraternity as Drew Millar at Northwestern. And I saw this girl and guy who were dating in junior high and still are and the guy had my number (...? dunno.) and called me and I had to go awkwardly socialize. Fabulous concert experience had by all.

Oh, and I saw Scott too. And met his brother. Which was sweet.

Rachel said...