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Counting Crows | New Amsterdam | review | rock | Lollipop

Counting Crows

New Amsterdam: Live at Heineken Music Hall February 4-6, 2003 (Geffen)
by Tim Den

I know it's extremely "uncool" to like Counting Crows, but you know what? Fuck you. Aside from vocalist Adam Duritz's occasional over-the-top stage presence and a few throwaway songs (a good chunk of This Desert Life), these guys have pretty much perfected the art of Americana rock over the past 15+ years. The hooks are HUGE and tasty, the execution top-notch, and the attitude down-to-earth and genuine. So what if they don't dress like the latest trendwhores? August and Everything After will still be listened to 20 years from now. The Faint? Fall Out Boy? I don't think so.

With that said, however, I've never been a big fan of the band's live shows or live records. I know they're famous for mutating songs and jamming out, constantly reinventing their back catalog in a haze of emotional spontaneity, but I've found a lot of the results too unfocused, too much horsing around and not enough sticking to the blueprints. When you've written the perfect hook for the perfect chorus, why meander all over the scale in an attempt to improvise? Sing that bloody brilliant hook, damn it! Don't turn "Rain King" into a ballad (which they do here)! But what's this? Aside from "Rain King," New Amsterdam is actually the closest the band have ever reproduced their studio recordings in a live setting. Even "Omaha" and "Perfect Blue Buildings" retain their original sense of resignation and sorrow, as acoustic guitars, accordions, and just the right percussion flesh out the necessary touches. Elsewhere, "Hard Candy" and "Hanginaround" burst with life, "Good Time" simmers like a Marvin Gaye love song, and newbie "Hazy" conveys solitude via Duritz and a lone piano. Holy crap, I've got no complaints! When I received this, I was sure that I was going to rant on about the band taking too many liberties in the live setting, but apparently, that phase of their career is over. New Amsterdam is Counting Crows at the top of their game, capturing all the studio recordings' sentiments while pushing 'em with a live concert's adrenaline. Recommended.


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