Somehow in addition to my love for bad action movies and cartoons, I have developed another feather in my cap as being one of the people on this site that regularly reviews concerts and musical documentaries on dvd or blu-ray. This is despite the fact that about the only musical talent I possess is the ability to sing glam metal or hair band rock. Okay, perhaps I can sing some other rock songs too but I would not consider myself a musical aficionado. So today’s musical act to review? That would be the Counting Crows.
Most people when they hear the band name Counting Crows think of the song, Mr. Jones, a very curious alternative rock hit that blew up the radio rock airwaves in late 93 and early 94. The truth is that song was an unexpected hit for the band who sang the song out of fun and fantasy. Lead singer Adam Duritz ’s childhood friend, Marty Jones (Himalayans bassist) was one of the inspirations for that song that spoke of the desire of musicians who wanted it to make it big.
The original band started back in 1991 with singer Duritz and guitarist David Bryson becoming an acoustic duo of sorts. Eventually another guitarist, David Immergluck would play with them and help them out. However, he did not officially join the band until about eight years later in 1999. By the time of their first album in 1993, they had grown to Duritz, Bryson, Matt Malley on Bass, Charlie Gillingham on Keyboards and Steve Bowman on drums.
Geffen Records produced their first album, August and Everything After in late 1993. The album did so well, it was the hottest thing since Nirvana’s epic, Nevermind. The album would go seven times platinum by 1996 and remain one of the top 100 albums of the decade by critics and sales. The band would tend to focus on live music as the source of their success despite the album’s huge numbers.
A second album would follow in 1996, Recovering the Satellites. Another guitarist was added to the mix by the name of Dan Vickery. But all was not well prior to the album with Duritz going through a nervous breakdown (not able to adapt to the band’s success was the main cause) and their drummer Bowman leaving the band (replaced by Ben Mize). Despite the album being mostly a conceptual one, it still went double platinum by 1997.
The next couple of albums, This Desert Life and Hard Candy would do decent business but only sufficed a platinum and gold respectively. After Hard Candy in 2002, the band went into a semi-retrospective mode with releasing a greatest hits package and re-working their previous material. In 2004, they did show up briefly doing the popular song, Accidentally in Love for the animated movie, Shrek 2. The song was nominated for an Academy Award.
A new album finally did surface in 2008 after Counting Crows had reportedly not wanted to do any more albums but still wanted to play live shows. The lineup was mostly the same but Matt Malley had left the band in 2005 and was replaced by Millard Powers on bass guitar. Drummer Ben Mize had also left the band in 2002 and was replaced by Jim Bogios. The album, Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings was well received by critics and debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200.
But enough about this band and we move on to the concert which was recorded at the Town Hall in New York City. The interesting thing about this concert was that it was basically started as a tribute where they would play their landmark first album with their current group members. But little did they know at the time (Duritz and Bryson), two of their newer members, Jim Bogios and Millard Powers didn’t even know some of the music since these were older tracks that were not played on their recent live sets.
However, what happened that night was something short of magical. As they revisited these classic tunes, a new energy formed. The concert was performed right before the release of their album, Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings. It was a small relatively intimate affair with the crowd being very into the music on the stage. The band was playing the music as if it was a brand new baby that had only been born the previous week. Appreciation and love was portrayed but with a little bit of pretensions.
The concert itself was not my bag of tricks. Duritz has this odd way of singing where he isn’t really singing, he basically talks to the audience in song. Read that back and listen to a couple of songs and you will begin to understand. The other thing that gets under my skin a bit is that Duritz really dominates the proceedings. For the most part (there are a few moments where he allows otherwise), the band really blends into the background and Counting Crows might as well be named Counting Duritz.
There are a couple of songs such as Sullivan Street or Murder of One where I really felt that there was a band playing instead of a singer whining into his microphone. Maybe I am being a little bit harsh. But when they pan to the audience and I am looking at all of these coffee house men and women who I could not stand during the mid 90’s when I was in college, I start to understand I am not the target for this music.
The video is in 1.78:1 widescreen presentation in 1080i resolution. The picture here has its good moments and bad. There is a lot of detail in the faces (like you can clearly see that Duritz is sweating profusely under the very hot lights) and the action onstage. But when it mixes with the shadows, you see a lot of pixilation and haze. It no longer becomes a clear affair and we are left with a little bit of mess. The color is right, it just looks like the conditions to film this were not very kind.
For the audio portion, we get a 5.1 English DTS-HD track (5.1 Dolby Digital and PCM 2.0 tracks also included). Eagle Rock is right on top of things as usual. The audio presentation is loud and expansive. Even though I did not care for the music, I can certainly say fans will be quite pleased with the audio. It uses all of the speakers quite well and really envelopes the audience in the complete sound experience. Subtitles (only for the Interview) are included for English, Spanish, French, and Dutch.
- In Depth with Adam Duritz and Charlie Gillingham 40:48: This really is the Adam Duritz show with Charlie only providing occasional comments. The interview is moderated by David Hayter but you would hardly know he is there. They talk about the first album as well as their Saturday Night Live performance and that most people remember the song, Round Here as opposed to Mr. Jones because it was the first performance. They also mention the shift of the band from a complicated one to a more simplistic one. Struggles are discussed as well as the idea of improving (musically) on a live stage. A solid interview, just a bit heavy on Duritz’s perspective.
One of the uplifting things about the band is that they embrace the idea of Bootleg recordings even when it comes to distribution. They actually go so far as hosting a trading network on their website so that fans can swap recordings. (Just as long as there is no profit involved). They positively care about their fans and want to make sure that everybody who likes the band gets to appreciate their music. Another fine example of this is provided in this blu-ray concert with the way they bring a new concert to a classic album.
However, this band was clearly not my cup of joe. Duritz (he even says it in his interview to some extent) dominates the proceedings. If you don’t care for his delivery or his musical subject matter, there is not much for you to enjoy. The audio and lone extra on the disc will cause fans to eat this one up. However, for the casual fan or music lover in general, I find this very tough to recommend. There are a few good songs, but more often than not, you will just be waiting for this one to end.
Round Here/Raining in Baltimore
Perfect Blue Buildings
Time and Time Again
A Murder of One