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Live and Counting Crows:
concert review

    Montreal: August 29 2000

How do you review a concert that's only fault was being too short?

Live and Counting Crows are two of my all-time favourite bands. So naturally, when I scored third-row floor seats to this show, I spent the next several months leading up to it being beyond excited. Even my anticipation didn't prepare me for the show itself.

We arrived around 7:30, just as the lights were dimming for the opening act, Galactic. The Crows usually pick openers who they're fans of and this seemed to be the case with Galactic, an instrumental unit out of New Orleans. Their jazzy sound wasn't too bad but they had a singer on a couple of tracks whose clothing was the only thing worse than his dancing. Our amazing seats in the third row, on the righthand side of the stage, afforded us an incredible view - of the stage as well as of the wing. Partway through the set we caught sight of Adam Duritz sitting and chatting with a couple of people just offstage. His hair makes him a hard guy to miss.

Live's keyboardist as well as two Crows members, including Adam himself, came out to do guest spots during Galactic's set. This was but a preview of an entire evening of amicable spirit and sharing of the stage between bands who seemed to be old friends.

After an amazingly short intermission, the lights dimmed once again and Counting Crows took the stage. At that point, some of the people in the first few rows had left their seats to go stand up next to the barrier near the stage. We made a split-second decision and joined them, claiming a spot a bit to the side but right up front, about as close as one could possibly get without backstage passes. Our move came not a second too soon, as security moved in and prevented anyone else from going up there. Our spots were safe, though. Suddenly third-row tickets were converted into front-row standing room with a great view! I couldn't believe my luck. Especially since for once I'd thought to bring a camera, and the photo ops from that location were unbeatable.

The Crows brought out the heavy ammunition right away, starting off with Mrs Potter's Lullaby and moving straight into Mr Jones - the electric version, much to my delight- and truer to the album version than I'd been expecting. Needless to say, this really got the crowd going, myself included.

Counting Crows played an erratic set, skipping from one album to the next and from happy, upbeat tunes to melancholy, depressing ones, seemingly without logic or reason. I Wish I Was A Girl was followed by Goodnight Elisabeth, keeping with that theme. One of my personal highlights was when Adam played "All My Friends" because the song had been in my head constantly for the previous three days or so. True to form, Adam constantly ad-libbed words in songs. On this one, instead of saying "I'm still looking for a girl", he said "I was looking for a girl", leading to immediate speculation about his current interest.

They played Omaha, inviting the crowd to sing the chorus but not getting the desired result out of thousands primarily there to see Live. Children in Bloom and pleasant surprise Another Horsedreamer's Blues were also met with a bit of confusion on the part of the singles-awaiting masses. A Murder of One got better singing results, though.

Adam Duritz stayed true to his image of refusing to sell out to a crowd. He played what he wanted, risking the wrath of the crowd for picking songs like Perfect Blue Buildings over Round Here. He didn't chat much with the crowd, at one point saying in his most deadpan voice, "um, hi. I'm Adam. I'm a Leo. I don't know, what do you guys want to talk about?" This of course drew big cheers.

The whole set was incredible, with constant cheering and screaming from the fans and great small moments. For example, when one of Adam's hair extensions started sticking straight up, and then it just kind of fell off so he threw it out into the crowd.

The best part was the ending, though. Adam told everyone in the audience to clap, so of course we knew what was coming. Then, to reinforce it for anyone who didn't already know, he invited everyone on stage. When I say everyone, I mean everyone: band members of Live and Galactic, wives, girlfriends, even kids of the band members. The cutest thing in the world was seeing someone's kid, probably about three, sitting and tapping on a drum (silenced of course). Hangin' Around was definitely the night's best moment. Everyone on stage was clapping and singing backing vocals and dancing around and the whole crowd was clapping and singing along. It was one big party and everyone was invited.

Then, for their grand finale, Adam sat down at the piano for A Long December. To a largely Francophone crowd, having a song where the chorus consists of "na-na-na-na's" is a sure way to ensure a singalong. When they finally left the stage, I was sad to see them go, but was so happy in that moment that had the earth opened and swallowed me up, I would have been content to die right then and there.

After another intermission - a bit longer but still amazingly short considering an entire set, not to mention two pianos, had to be removed and the whole stage needed conversion - Live finally took the stage. Or, as Ed Kowalczyk put it, "It's my turn now".

The set began with a slow, low-key version of They Stood Up For Love. Apparently the trend that evening was to start the set with the latest radio single. The version of the song was great, though. Ed's vocals were dead-on as usual and the rest of the band resisted the urge to overpower the song. This was followed by the heavier All Over You and the crowd ate it up, jumping around and screaming their heads off.

In contrast to Counting Crows, Ed played up to the crowd for all it was worth. Hip movements, gyrations, banter and invites to sing along were all seen and heard throughout their set. He even asked the audience to vote on which song to do (Shit Towne was overwhelmingly favoured over Waitress).

They stuck mostly to their heavier tunes, bringing out expected tunes such as The Distance and Lakini's Juice as well as some more obscure ones like Heropsychodreamer. They began I Alone with a strange intro but once the song was in familiar territory the crowd was completely won over. Ed dedicated Voodoo Lady to "all the sexy ladies out in the crowd". The set also included The Beauty of Gray off of Mental Jewlery and a new track, entitled Deep Enough. I wasn't particularly impressed with the new song, to tell the truth. But the rest of the set was great.

The Dolphin's Cry was amazing, and as another evening hilight, Adam Duritz joined the band on stage - wearing a Montreal Canadiens jersey with "Duritz" and the number 1 on the back!

Of course no Live show could possibly be complete without Lightning Crashes, and they did not disappoint. Finally, as at the last show, Live ended their set with the pleasantly mellow Dance With You. At that point from where I was standing I had a great view of Adam Duritz sitting on the side of the stage, engaged in a heavy-duty makeout session with his girlfriend. Interesting. Anyway, the cheesy singer who sang with Galactic came out to "help" Ed on that one, although in my opinion he did more harm than good. Still, the spirit of camaraderie remained unbroken throughout the evening.

My only complaint, of course, was that the shows were too short. Especially Live's set - they were only on for just over an hour. Counting Crows played an hour and a half but even that was too short in my opinion. Hell, if you asked me, they could have gone on playing forever :) Still, the result of doing a double-bill is that there's no time for everything. I knew ahead of time that there would be some disappointments due to omissions in each band's setlist. I was right. Round Here and Anna Begins were conspicuously absent from the Crows' set, while I would have loved to hear Live play Selling the Drama. Oh well, I guess nothing's perfect.

This show came pretty damn close, though, I'll tell you that much.

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