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Across A Wire is Counting Crows' third album and only live album so far. (There are rumors of another soon.) It was released as a two-CD set in 1998. The first CD is from a performance for VH1's Storytellers, while the second was recorded at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. Despite including many of the same songs, these were two very different shows: the first with a small audience and mostly acoustic instruments, the second with a large audience, electric instruments, and a live MTV broadcast.

VH1 storytellers

The Storytellers performance was recorded at Chelsea Studios in New York on August 12th, 1997. The tracklist is as follows:

  1. Round Here
  2. Have You Seen Me Lately?
  3. Angels Of The Silences
  4. Catapult
  5. Mr. Jones
  6. Rain King
  7. Mercury
  8. Ghost Train
  9. Anna Begins

The show begins in the same way the band did: with only two musicians, Adam Duritz on vocals and David Bryson on acoustic guitar. They play "Round Here," a song described as a "teen anthem" by the Himalayans, the band that Adam Duritz wrote it with before starting Counting Crows. Charles Gillingham joins them on piano for "Have You Seen Me Lately?," which describes Duritz' struggle with fame. The rest of the band joins in for "Angels Of The Silences" and "Catapult," which are notable as acoustic recordings of songs originally released as fairly wild electric ones.

The next song, "Mr. Jones," is the stand-out performance of the show. Duritz succeeds in completely remaking this happy song about his dreams, the band's most popular, into a cynical description of stardom. He begins by singing the opening lines from the Byrds' "So You Wanna Be A Rock 'N' Roll Star," and continues with his own lyrics, singing them just differently enough to instill a completely different mood. Orpheum's "Mr. Jones" writeup describes this performance better than I can, so I will refrain from going into too much detail.

Next comes "Rain King," featuring Dan Vickrey on electric guitar, and "Mercury" featuring half of the band on instruments different than their usual ones. The show ends with electric performances of "Ghost Train" and "Anna Begins," but the album continues a bit with several minutes of turntable static. This static precedes a hidden track: a studio recording of the previously unreleased song "Chelsea," with brass by the Soul Rebels, a New Orleans brass band.

MTV live from the 10 spot

The Live From The 10 Spot show was recorded at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York on November 6th, 1997. The show was the last of that American tour and was broadcast live on MTV. The tracklist is as follows:

  1. Recovering The Satellites
  2. Angels Of The Silences
  3. Rain King
  4. Sullivan Street
  5. Children In Bloom
  6. Have You Seen Me Lately?
  7. Raining In Baltimore
  8. Round Here
  9. I'm Not Sleeping
  10. A Murder Of One
  11. A Long December
  12. Walkaways

There is rather less to say about this show. It is a good high-energy performance and is exciting to listen to, and many of the songs previously released on August And Everything After show the band's increased experience. Duritz repeats the line "I really need a raincoat" many times on "Raining In Baltimore" and manages to sound good, not silly, doing so. This is followed by a wonderful ten-minute performance of "Round Here," including lyrics from "Have You Seen Me Lately?" and other new lyrics. In addition, this show includes both "A Murder Of One" and "A Long December," my favorite songs from August And Everything After and Recovering The Satellites, respectively.

As a whole, Across A Wire is a great album for three reasons. First, when compared to their other albums, it shows the incremental changes Counting Crows has gone through in their ten years since their first album. Second, it offers a chance to hear them reinvent two of their greatest songs, namely "Mr. Jones" and "Round Here." And third, it consists of a pair of solid recordings of the band at their best: live.

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