I just stumbled upon a phenomenal resource for those of us who love ourselves a bit of the Counting Crows, especially the wrenching and lovely renditions of their songs that they perform live in concert. I love the experimentation in a live Counting Crows show: it’s always different melodies, different lyrics, but a common thread of beauty. “Humm” runs the Hummingbird’s Nest fansite, stocked with dozens of complete live shows for download.
I ran amok on the website and here are some of the favorites that I found. There is a ton more (and this is a doozy of a long post because I can’t be succinct on the topic of Counting Crows).
SHOW: 2003 Shim Sham secret show, New Orleans
For the last few years (maybe not so much this year), Adam Duritz, “Immy” (David Immergluck), and assorted friends play a secret show in New Orleans at the Shim Sham club – usually 90% cover songs with a few CC tunes thrown in. Here are two great ones (which I had before, but crappy sounding copies. These are excellent sound quality):
“Winding Wheel” (Ryan Adams cover)
(Adam Duritz: “Pretty much, my schedule during the day is I work all day in our studio, then I go at night to [Ryan's] studio, and then we kinda go streetwalking down Hollywood Boulevard, stopping in all the bars. Cuz Ryan . . . Ryan, while being a very good drinker, is also probably a better songwriter than I am. In any case, he’s a lot of fun. This is off his first album; his new album is the best thing I’ve ever heard, pretty much, but you’ll find that out when it comes out.”)
“Unsatisfied” (Replacements cover)
I love the desperation in this song, even though Adam’s voice isn’t as wavering and on-the-edge strained as Westerberg’s is when he sings it.
“St. Robinson and His Cadillac Dream” (acoustic)
Hmmm. I think this is my favorite Counting Crows song, partly because of the lyric “Yeah, but the comet is coming between me and the girl who could make it all clean” (but ask me tomorrow and it might be a different fave). This acoustic version is practically unrecognizable from the original, especially in the intro, but I LOVE IT.
“Tuesday in Amsterdam” (unreleased original)
I am so stoked to have a clean and clear version of this song, which I had previously been unable to find. Crushing. He repeats the line “Come back to me” so many times that it just becomes a sad plea, and by the end of the song I think it must hurt to keep asking. The lyric “she is the film of the book of the story of the smell of her hair” somehow captures just how complicated another person can be, yet anchored by something so simple (a scent).
“Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby“
This Desert Life was released while I was studying abroad in Italy, and my sister brought me a taped copy down from London when she came to visit me mid-semester (ah, those surreal days). As such the entire album is The Soundtrack to many, many train rides and many quiet mornings trying to recover from the vino. I love so many lyrics in this song, “If dreams are like movies, then memories are films about ghosts,” or “If you’ve never stared off into the distance, then your life is a shame,” or “It’s just a brief interruption in the swirling dust sparkle jetstream.” Plus I wonder who Mrs. Potter is. Songs about married women are always so intriguing.
SHOW: Warner Theatre, Erie, PA
April 23, 2003
The fantastic percussion intro of this songs gets even more interesting here in this live version, and I love the way that Adam lyrically plumbs the depths of self-deluding, one-sided relationships with the lines:
“It just gets hard to believe
That God sent this angel to watch over me
But my angel, she don’t receive my calls
Says I’m too dumb to f*ck
Too dumb to fight
Too dumb to save
Well, maybe I don’t need no angel at all” (ya think?)
SHOW: Konocti Harbor, CA
July 3, 2004
I used to hear commercials about this resort/spa/playground-of-the-yuppies on the radio all the time when I lived in CA. The drunk, rich crowd ambient noise bugs me (MUST you scream that loud, oh urban cougar?) but this is such a great song:
“Holiday in Spain“
Just sounds exactly like the vacation I need right now – “Everybody’s gone, they left the television screamin’ at the radios on. Someone stole my shoes, but there’s a couple of bananas and a bottle of booze . . . well Happy New Year’s baby, we could probably fix it if we clean it up all day, or we could simply pack our bags and catch a plane to Barcelona ‘cos this city’s a drag.”
“Up All Night“
This is THE BEST song for driving off somewhere on the open road on a summer night with the windows down, in part because of the opening lyric, “Is everybody happy now? Is everybody clear? We could drive out to the dunes tonight ‘cos summer’s almost here . . .” (an obvious soundtrack). Feel the humidity in the air.
“Black and Blue“
In the studio version of Hard Candy, the lovely Ms. Leona Naess provides the haunting backing vocals to this very sad song. The live version always seems a bit lacking to me without her, but it is such a gorgeous & melancholy song that I’ll let it slide.
(hidden track, This Desert Life)
Rocking and fun, with somewhat throwaway lyrics (which may be why is was selected for the hidden location on the CD) – even though the one about “No, no, no – you can’t get any lovin’ – it’s a Sunday” always makes me smile.
“Return of the Grievous Angel” (Gram Parsons cover)
Some good ole expansive ’70s country from Gram Parsons, suitable for a show out here in the somewhat-wild-West.
SHOW: Greek Theatre, Berkeley, CA Sept 12, 2000
I was there for this one. I miss the Greek, it is a fabulous setting in which to see a show. This had an excellent setlist, and was a dual bill with Live (who I will be seeing next Friday).
“Live Forever” (Oasis cover)
Truly lovely version of this song; Adam says that “seeing Oasis a bunch really got me into how perfect pop songs are . . .”
“Murder of One” (with Paris/Rome tag)
I’ve heard Counting Crows do this song live with this tag before, and I loved it but I could never find it. It’s simple, but sticks in your head:
“I have been to Paris
I have been to Rome
I will go to London
And I am all alone”
Whew! And that is just getting started on Hummingbird’s Nest. Have fun, muchachos.
Oh, and there is a new Counting Crows live album, New Amsterdam, coming out on June 20.