Dave Matthews Band Live.
The Dave Matthews Band is a Cinderella story of a band that started from scratch and became one of the biggest rock and roll bands of the last decade. Combining elements of rock, jazz, funk, and folk, the Dave Matthews Band has gained an incredible following and has been one of the most continuously touring bands to date. After a decade together, BMG has released one of their shows on DVD.
As I said, a Cinderella story. South-African born Dave Matthews moved to Charlottesville, Virginia as a teen and took a job in a local club. There he met fellow musicians who would become the members of the band even now. From their first gig before 40 people, they had an independently produced record go gold within the first year and a contract from RCA. Now, after 3 studio and 3 live albums under their belt they are a headline act and their last album went straight to number one on the Billboard charts. A bit of trivia: they wanted to give the band a "real" name but they got famous so fast the interim name stuck.
The ensemble isn't your usual combo for a rock band. Dave Matthews is the only guitar player, and he plays an acoustic. For backup he has violin and saxophone, in addition to the traditional bass and drums. Saxophonist LeRoi Moore plays alto and tenor sax, and even flute on occasion. Violinist Boyd Tinsley is as versatile with his instrument as any I've seen, even playing it like an electric mandolin on occasion. He creates an altogether original sound, though sometimes I hear Celtic influences within it. Dave Matthews remains the front man for the band, however with his unique voice that ranges from gravel to falsetto.
The band was tight, with no glitches in their performance. The show logged in at an incredible 2 hours and 20 minutes. The stage was gorgeous, with dozens of lights well timed to the show. Some of the songs were excellent, and I felt like I was in for a great show.
The disc looks very nice as well. Except for a few places where there is some artifacting present and a bit of edge overenhancement the picture was extremely vivid and detailed. Flesh tones and colors were well saturated, even shadow detail wasn't bad. As it was filmed first for a one hour PBS special of course it is full frame, alas. The rest of the show was brought back for the disc.
Sound is, of course, more important than picture quality on a concert disc. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack did not disappoint, with an aggressive use of the front three channels and reverb reinforcement from the rear surrounds. The subwoofer got a fair kick throughout the show as well. The detail and imagery was terrific. A truly great audio experience. The Dolby 2.0 isn't bad either, but again sounds thin and compressed in comparison. Frankly I'd go with 2 channel PCM if I didn't have the DD 5.1 capability.
The extra content is unusual. This is the first concert disc I've reviewed with multi-angle capability. Several songs take advantage of it, allowing you to decide which vantage point to watch the show from. A photo gallery done to one of the band's songs and a couple weblinks complete the package.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I could almost cry. You see, I'm a real fan of Dave Matthews Band. I actually had this disc on order for purchase when I was lucky enough to receive it as a disc for review. And there is nothing wrong with the disc; great sound, good picture, the band was on key and everything. The only problem with the show was the show itself. Unfortunately this isn't the best example of a DMB show. Much of the concert is great, and I will end up recommending purchase based on those parts alone. But several songs become tediously long and uninvolved. A 6 minute song extended to 17 minutes, with most of the extra being some very light and New Age type of jam session. One song like this can kill a concert; they do at least 4. When they chose to change the way a song worked for live performance, it actually made it much worse than the original, instead of adding excitement or passion to it. From reports of people who have seen their shows, and their other live albums, this is a new trend for the band.
Again I have to complain about the BMG packaging. This time they did use the Amaray keep case at least, which leads me to believe they haven't settled on a standard case for their releases yet. This is the one to use. But again the packaging information is lacking. No song list at all; there is no paper insert giving the chapter list (song list) and none on the packaging. Ironically the back of the package advertises that the disc has Dolby Surround but not the superior Dolby Digital 5.1 track. It doesn't even list the run time of the disc, a first for that I believe. Now the disc: Since there were no song lyrics I couldn't complain about the lack of subtitles; except to say that what has become an expected special feature is to have song lyrics set as subtitles. I should also mention that the back of the case gives one location for where the show was filmed, the end of the disc another. Maybe it's the same place called by two names, to be charitable.
I am giving this disc a very conditional recommendation. When you reach a point where a song sounds like it's just dragging along, and your remaining time meter reads several minutes to go, don't assume as I did that the song will pick up and wait for it. Just skip ahead. Doing that will result in a few less songs but a much more enjoyable show. The disc itself is excellent, and when the band doesn't indulge in this tribute to light breezy music so are the songs. Perhaps a rental tryout is in order first; heck you might even like the longer slower versions better.
Dave Matthews Band is put on probation and ordered to rethink their approach to a live show. Their studio albums show more passion and kick than this live performance, taken in it's totality. BMG has simply got to work on their packaging and get us a song list we don't have to go through a menu for. I'm sentencing them to do just that for future releases.
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