POP MUSIC REVIEW : 'Crows' Clone Van Morrison

If Lenny Kravitz can find a niche as a surrogate Jimi Hendrix/Sly Stone figure for people who came along too late for the originals, why not a band that offers the Van Morrison experience?

That's the first impression created by the San Francisco-based Counting Crows. At the Whisky on Thursday, the five players' dramatic, folk-soul settings framed the taut, gravelly vocals of Adam Duritz, whose stabbing shouts, full wails and murmured passages had an improvisatory feel straight outta Belfast.

But inside the cage of their influences, which also prominently include the Band, the young group seems ready to play for high stakes. Duritz's narratives are rich and vibrant, full of evocative imagery and a trembling emotionalism.

The music has the potential to explode into mystical radiance on stage, to trigger some kind of free-flying riffing, an adventurous pursuit of the emotions into even higher ground.

But the Whisky performance was oddly static. The band didn't expand much on the arrangements on its new debut album, and while Duritz's concentrated intensity compelled your attention, he never rewarded it with an unexpected revelation. Everything about his music and his presence asks you to join him, but on Thursday he didn't take you anywhere new.

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