Counting Crows fly back to Bay Area
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ADAM DURITZ has to make a decision.
The Counting Crows vocalist is simply juggling too many things as he navigates the busy streets of Greenwich Village. He's got his iPod plugged into one ear and he's cranking Chris Bell's "I Am the Cosmos," which is a decidedly hip answer to the very 21st-century question, "What's on your iPod?" With his other ear, the former East Bay resident is listening through his cell phone as a music journalist -- namely, yours truly -- brings up a variety of vastly important topics, including favorite Marvel comic book characters and best Berkeley pizza joints. (Just to get you caught up with the conversation: Duritz digs both the Defenders and Fat Slice.)

While all of this is taking place, the vocalist is simply trying to make his way home without being struck by a passing motorist, which is, in itself, no small feat during the midweek lunch crunch in New York City.

Eventually, Duritz eliminates a couple of distractions by shutting off "I am the Cosmos," hopefully not during the great track "You and Your Sister," and by hailing a cab to take him the short ride back to his Greenwich Village pad.

Once the 41-year-old vocalist is through his front door, the conversation quickly switches from comic characters to -- surprise, surprise -- Counting Crows. The first (relevant) topic for discussion is the band's co-headlining tour with the Goo Goo Dolls, which hits three NorCal venues in four days -- Saturday at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Marysville, Sunday at Sleep Train Pavilion in Concord and Tuesday at Shoreline (not called Sleep Train) Amphitheatre in Mountain View.

"The Goo Goo Dolls just seemed like an obviously good idea (for a tour partner)," Duritz says of the double-bill. "It was clearly going to sell a ton of tickets. Plus, I like Johnny (Rzeznik, the vocalist-guitarist for the Dolls). I don't know the other guys in the band that well. But I've met Johnny a few times and I've always been impressed with what a good guy he is. And that's a big deal when you are spending a summer with someone."

The Crows have a long, and profitable, history of co-headlining tours. The band previously has shared the stage and top spot on the marquee with John Mayer and Live. Theoretically, the benefit from these bills comes from having two fan bases mingle to create one giant, uber-crowd. That's what makes these doubleheaders so appealing to Duritz.

"I want to play to a full house every night. That's kind of all I want," the singer says. "I don't care whether I am the headliner or the co-headliner or the opening act of the two, like we were with Mayer, or the closing, like we are this summer. To me, the big deal is that I want a full house."

Intriguingly, Duritz says it's not that important whether scads of Counting Crows fans are in the crowd. To the contrary, he says, the band stands to benefit the most when it plays in front of an audience that is unfamiliar with the Counting Crows.

"My feeling is that you put us onstage, especially in front of people who don't necessarily know us, we will do nothing but good for ourselves because we can play," Duritz says. "We will dump our hearts onstage and we will leave it all there and fans are attracted to that.

"My favorite gig is when we play festivals in Europe, where we get 50,000 people. Nowadays, we are way higher up the bill on those big festivals, we are like the second or first band on the bill. But there were years when we were way down the bill and we had to go out there in front of 50,000 people who had no idea who we were. Then we'd kill it. It's the reason we are big in Europe."

Using the European continent as a conversational springboard, the vocalist addresses the band's new live album, "New Amsterdam: Live at Heineken Music Hall, February 6, 2003," which was released Tuesday. The album's title references the first lyric ("I was down at the New Amsterdam...") of the band's most famous song, "Mr. Jones."

Yet Duritz says that having a cute, marketable album title had nothing to do with why the band recorded the live record in Holland.

"It was just that that was the venue on that tour where we were playing three nights in a row," he says. "When you are recording or filming a concert, you want to play multiple nights."

The live album serves as a nice treat to tide fans over while they continue to wait for the long overdue follow-up to 2002's "Hard Candy."

The good news, Duritz says, is that fans shouldn't have to wait much longer for a new studio album. The band recently spent three weeks working in a Hell's Kitchen recording studio with Gil Norton, the producer behind

HANGINAROUND: The Counting Crows play three local amphitheater shows this week.

1996's excellent "Recovering the Satellites."

The next record is basically half done, Duritz says, currently with loud, raucous rockers. In the fall, the players will regroup in the studio to hatch a softer, gentler batch of songs to complement the uptempo tigers.

Although no official release date has been set, Duritz has speculated that the album could hit stores by early 2007. The band, however, does have an album title ready and waiting.

"It's probably going to be called 'Saturday Night, Sunday Morning,'" Duritz explains. "Saturday night is when you sin and Sunday is when you regret. Sinning is often done very loudly, angrily, bitterly, violently."

"Saturday Night, Sunday Morning," if indeed that's what it ends up being called, will be the band's fifth studio album since it formed in the Bay Area in 1991. The Crows' first record, 1993's "August and Everything After," made Duritz a star.

The upside of that included being linked romantically with "Friends" stars Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox. The downside of fame was that the singer lost much of his privacy. That used to bother him a great deal, but he's come to accept all that goes with his celebrity status. Plus, he doesn't want to sound like he's complaining about something he spent much of his life trying to achieve.

"Sure, I wanted everyone to like me. Everybody (wants that)," Duritz says. "I wasn't the popular kid growing up, so I wanted to be. I want people to like me, but you don't have the choice of when they like you.

"I'm not comfortable being everybody's pal. I'm just not built that way. That's what I had the most problems with (early in my career) -- the loss of anonymity. I couldn't go to the grocery store. But that was 1993 and it's now 2006. I've long since learned to live with my life and I enjoy it."

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