Monday , April 22 2024
Two albums, double live album. Two more albums, a greatest hits package and now another live album.

CD Review: Counting Crows – New Amsterdam Live

Counting Crows haven't released a new album in four years (and counting). They released a greatest hits compilation to summarize four studio albums and have now released a three-year old show cobbled together from a three-night stand at Heineken Music Hall. Can you say contract fulfillment? Of course, longtime Counting Crows fans will remember the ban got a bit bloodied in the press for releasing a double live album after having released only two studio albums so make out of this what you will (guitarist Dan Vickery says the band is hart at work on a new album).

Setting aside whatever questions one might have about the motives, New Amsterdam is a solid live album.

Counting Crows have long been in the habit of re-arranging and reinterpreting their songs in a live setting – the song you hear on the radio or on the CD is not likely going to bear much resemblance to the way it is performed in concert. The Crows did not invent the practice and it is one that is loved, loathed, and debated by music fans on message boards all across the Internet.

When Counting Crows reinterpret one of their songs, Duritz has an annoying habit of going out of his way not to sing a single note the way it was sung on record (or the way it would be sung if he were to try to sing on key). This particular vocal style is made more maddening because Duritz's voice can be an acquired taste on its best day. The overwrought, earnestness hits you like a sledgehammer and it has rubbed some people the wrong way. This is just one reason the band has worn the "pretentious" label for years.

It might be impressive that he can sing a song differently every night but damn him for doing it! On Amsterdam, Duritz is mostly under control and mostly on key. By not overdoing it, he allows his voice to work within the confines of the arrangement. By playing it straight, he plays to his band's strengths because the playing is superb throughout the show. It should be – there are now seven band members (fast approaching E-Street Band size).

The recording of the show is professional – maybe just a little too much so but it really depends on your perspective. The sound quality is excellent but the crowd is absent from much of the show save for a little applause between tracks. The mix of the show has removed the blood and guts. You do not ever really get the sense "you are there." If that is the kind of live recording you like, Amsterdam is not for you. Amsterdam offers you a chance to hear the nuances of the playing. If you prefer to lose yourself in the music rather than the experience, this is not a bad little live album at all.

The song selection includes cuts from all four albums and one new song, "Hazy." The song selection shies away from the hits of their earlier work, perhaps because these songs are on Counting Crows first live set Across a Wire: Live in New York. It is understandable but a little disappointing because the performances of Duritz and band are so good on Amsterdam it would have been nice to hear these songs performed with that same care. Still, what's here is good and live albums are usually aimed at the devoted rather than the casual. Devoted fans have heard "Mr. Jones" more times than they care to count. They aren't missing it.

It would have been great if they released one complete show from the run rather than cherry picking but it is a small gripe because very few major acts do this. New Amsterdam won't win them any new fans. It paints the picture of a veteran act, growing in their craft if not necessarily expanding their art. I still don't understand why they are releasing this three-year old show but the faithful will still probably find plenty to like.

Tracklist for New Amsterdam:

  1. Rain King
  2. Richard Manuel Is Dead
  3. Catapult
  4. Goodnight la
  5. Four White Stallions
  6. Omaha Windows Media|Real Media
  7. Miami
  8. Hazy Real Media|Windows Media
  9. Good Time
  10. St. Robinson in His Cadillac Dream
  11. Perfect Blue Buildings
  12. Hanginaround
  13. Goodnight Elisabeth
  14. Hard Candy
  15. Holiday in Spain

Wed, 6/21         Portland, OR Clark County Amph
Thu, 6/22          Seattle, WA White River Amph
Sat, 6/24           Sacramento, CA Sleep Train Amph
Sun, 6/25          Concord, CA Pavilion
Tue, 6/27          San Francisco, CA Shoreline Amph/Chronicle Pavilion
Thu, 6/29          San Diego, CA Coors Amph
Fri, 6/30            Irvine, CA Verizon Wireless Amph
Sat, 7/1             Phoenix, AZ Cricket Pavilion
Mon, 7/3           Albuquerque, NM Journal Pavilion
Wed, 7/5           Denver, CO Red Rock Amph
Fri, 7/7              St. Louis, MO UMB Bank Pavilion
Sat, 7/8             Indianapolis, IN Verizon Wireless Amph
Sun, 7/9            Milwaukee, WI Summerfest
Tue, 7/11          Cleveland, OH Scene Pavilion
Wed, 7/12         Cincinnati, OH Riverbend Amph
Fri, 7/14            Columbus, OH Germain Amph
Sat, 7/15           Pittsburgh, PA Post Gazette Pavilion
Fri, 7/21            Detroit, MI DTE Music Theatre
Sat, 7/22           Buffalo, NY Darien Lake PAC
Mon, 7/24          Toronto, ON Molson Amph
Wed, 7/26         Holmdel, NJ PNC Bank
Fri, 7/28            Hershey, PA Hershey Pavilion
Sat, 7/29           Boston, MA Tweeter Center
Mon, 7/31          Uncasville, CT Mohegan Sun
Tue, 8/1            Gilford, NH Meadowbrook Musical Arts Center
Thu, 8/3            Wantagh, NY Jones Beach
Fri, 8/4              Wantagh, NY Jones Beach
Sun, 8/6            Atlantic City, NJ Borgata
Mon, 8/7           Saratoga Springs, NY SPAC
Wed, 8/9           Bethel, NY Bethel Woods
Fri, 8/11            Scranton, PA Ford Pavilion
Fri, 8/18            Chicago, IL Tweeter Center
Sat, 8/19           Springfield, IL Illinois State Fair
Mon, 8/21          Nashville, TN Starwood Amph
Wed, 8/23         Raleigh, NC Alltel Pavilion
Fri, 8/25            Philadelphia, PA Tweeter Waterfront
Sat, 8/26           Washington, DC Nissan Pavilion
Mon, 8/28          Virginia Beach, VA Verizon Wireless Amph
Tue, 8/29          Charlotte, NC Charlotte Verizon
Thu, 8/31          West Palm Beach, FL Sound Advice
Fri, 9/1              Tampa, FL Ford Amph
Sun, 9/3            Atlanta, GA HiFi Buys Amph
Tue, 9/5            Birmingham, AL Verizon Wireless Amph
Thu, 9/7            Houston, TX CWM
Fri, 9/8              San Antonio, TX Verizon Wireless Amph
Sat, 9/9             Dallas, TX Smirnoff Amph

About Josh Hathaway

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