The fear that you'll never find the love of your life is a terrifying one. But even worse: what if you never find the band of your life? Genuinely, I don't know what I would have done without Counting Crows. They gave me a new angle on life. They painted the way for how I would value myself as an artist, about what it would all mean to me. How many people can you say that about?
The records are incredible, and I insist you listen to all of them. But the Crows are a live band. What I love as a writer, director and even a viewer of films is rawness, realness, spontaneity. And that's also what I always loved about music, but it was so hard to find. And then I found Counting Crows.
You know what? Sometimes they SUCK! Sometimes Adam Duritz, the lead singer, is miserable, depressed, and just not on it. But it's FASCINATING! It's REAL! He just gets up onto the stage and pours his heart out in front of you. Occasionally you get fooled into thinking it's just a shtick, but then he'll come out bouncing and be wild and hilarious -- other times he won't talk to the audience but they'll do a seventeen minute version of a rare song with a bit of a Springsteen cover thrown into the middle -- and you're just blown away. Counting Crows don't paint over anything, there's no front, it's just them.
Listen to this. Stop reading, dim the lights. Give 12 minutes of your life to this. You might love it, you might cry, you might think it sucks. But by the end you'll definitely have an opinion, and that's more than you can say for so much that passes for music these days.
That song changed my life. I got obsessed with 'Round Here'. I have, literally, hundreds of versions. I remember seeing them live in Ireland, it must've been eight or ten years ago, and they did 'Round Here', and it was heartbreaking. That was until the middle of the song, when they broke it down, changed it up, and launched into the Van Morrison song 'Sweet Thing', and it was electrifying and joyful! At the end of the song they swerved back into 'Round Here'. Incredible. You think you know a song inside out, but then Counting Crows take it and reinvent it and your whole perception of everything changes.
Even if they sing 'Rain King' with Springsteen's 'Thunder Road' mixed in for five nights in a row -- even that is spontaneous-- because one night they'll do the whole song, other nights Adam will just hint at the lyrics for five seconds then dive off into another song -- or maybe they'll do the whole thing acoustic and Adam will do some weird talking-screaming-poetic-rambling thing for eleven minutes. Probably sounds horrendous if you're not a fan -- but for those that are, it's EVERYTHING.
I don't know any band that takes you so far into the very MOMENT that you're experiencing. They make you aware you're LIVING. I've wanted to write this post for three years, but how the hell do you explain the things you love?
Here's a stripped down version that they did on the Howard Stern show a few years ago. Just Adam and a few band members.
When do you ever hear something like THAT on the RADIO? It never happens! WHAT? That level of emotion and truth? They're not phoning it in, they're IN IT. It's so refreshing - artists who are FREE to be themselves. With Counting Crows it is ALL about expression. You feel it in every thing that every band member does.
Sure, they do it for a living, and they got very rich. But it would have been so easy for them to go on auto-pilot. But they take risks. They dropped the label and went independent so they could control their art. They play giant venues, they tour tiny venues. They come up with crazy ideas like the Travelling Circus and Medicine Show, and Adam's project with Ryan from Ryan's Smashing Life blog, The Outlaw Roadshow.
They're great with the fans, too. I've been at festivals, turned around and seen Jim Bogios and David Immerglück (band members) standing behind me. And you go to awkwardly say hello, just cause you're a loser fanboy, and then they stick around and talk to you for thirty minutes about all their favourite bands. With Duritz, I've always sensed he's a bit like Woody Allen -- awkward with the crowds and would prefer to not have his picture taken - but he is always polite and always suffers it. He knows it's about the fans, he knows how much they care; so he puts in the time and effort.
But his place is really on the stage. He'll come out at the beginning and do a solo piano song, which is a cover of some track he found on the bootleg of a copy of an album of a band you've never heard of who only ever recorded six demo's, 24 years ago, yet somehow his performance is the greatest thing you've ever heard. It's just incredible.
Here's a song that was only ever played once. This is the only recording. I'm pretty sure Duritz made it up about thirty minutes before the show. The emotion just knocks your socks off. Makes me think of every girl I ever saw leave. Heartbreaking.
How the hell does he do that? Is it talent? Did he get dropped on the head as a child? Incredible.
Counting Crows are rough, raw, temperamental, moody, genius, depressing, uplifting, boring, exhilarating. It's years later and still they're my favourite band by a long long way. You have to see them live, there's nothing like it.
Their new album, 'Underwater Sunshine (Or What We did On Our Summer Vacation)' was released today. Head over to their website to check it out.