Counting Crows' Songs Get Second Life In Live Setting

Across a Wire showcases acoustic and electric sets by the folk-rock sextet.

Counting Crows leader Adam Duritz doesn't seem to mind if the songs on his band's double-disc live album, Across a Wire: Live in New York, aren't carbon copies of his outfit's recorded hits.

In fact, he's plenty comfortable watching them take on lives of their own.

"The record is like an encapsulated perfect version of a song, where you're trying to develop a song to where you have something that's permanent and lasting," said singer Duritz, 34. "With a live gig, you're really just filtering the songs through the day and however you are that day. The songs change every day, and grow. They're constantly metamorphosing, and I like that."

The two-disc set -- which was released in mid-July -- was assembled from a pair of televised live performances: an acoustic show that aired Aug. 12, 1997, as part of the VH1 "Storytellers" program, and a Nov. 6, 1997, gig at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York that aired on MTV's "Live at the 10 Spot." The album draws evenly from the band's two LPs: its multi-platinum debut, August and Everything After, and 1996's Recovering the Satellites.

It was fan demand that prompted the Crows, who formed in the San Francisco Bay Area, to assemble the material for the two live discs, according to band co-manager Martin Kirkup.

"A lot of fans would come up to the band after shows and say, 'When are you going to have a live record?' " Kirkup said. "If you check on the Internet, there are about 200 bootleg CDs available. Most of them are crappy quality and cost $35 each in stores. Fans kept saying, 'We'd love to have a really good version of these tapes. Why don't you put out a live record?' So the band felt, in response to those kinds of demands, they wanted to put out a live record but keep it low-priced."

On the "Storytellers" disc, Duritz and his bandmates -- guitarist David Bryson, guitarist Dan Vickrey, bassist Matt Malley, keyboardist Charlie Gillingham and drummer Ben Mize -- give the acoustic treatment to such usually raucous songs as "Angels of the Silences" (RealAudio excerpt of live version).

The "acousticizing" process alerted the Los Angeles-based sextet -- who are known for alternating between contemplative piano ballads and guitar-driven rock songs, with stops at various, brooding points in between -- to new possibilities for playing the tunes.

"All the acoustic numbers were pretty drastically different in preps. 'Angels of the Silences' and 'Have You Seen Me Lately?' were the loudest, so the difference is more exaggerated," Duritz said. "They got a whole different feel, different tones. We were trying to discover other sides of the songs, trying to find other textures and facets to the songs."

During the recording of the electric set, which includes an extended version of the band's smash hit "Round Here" (RealAudio excerpt of live version), Duritz said the precise time slots allotted for the television program created an additional challenge for the group.

"It was interesting having to run the show and watch the clock. It had us juggling a lot of things at once. We sort of excel at big moments, like we don't really get into a pressure situation and not play great," Duritz said. "We really hit those shows, pretty much without fail, and I don't think these were any exceptions."