First there was Red Rocks, then Luther College, followed up by the PBS-funded Listener Supported at Giants Stadium. Once again, a live Dave Matthews Band album has been released, this time titled “Live in Chicago,” performed on Dec. 19, 1998.
Now if you’re just a casual Dave fan, don’t give yourself the chance to complain that you’ve heard all these songs before.
On the other hand, if you’re an avid listener who preaches “Davetheism” to any listening ear ? if you recognize and separate one Carter Beauford drum solo from another, if you appreciate each one of Boyd Tinsleys varying violin medleys differently, whether its the ever-popular “Ants Marching” solo or the not so recognized beginning of “Pig,” and if you realize there’s oh-so-much-more to the beautiful music put out by the Dave Matthews Band over the last 10 years than their cute vocalist and lead guitarist ? then get this album.
Yes, every song except for “The Maker” has been released on a previous album, and some of the songs are now being released in live form for the third time. But if you understand the subtle differences, you’ll love this album the way you do every other DMB album ? except “Everyday.”
The album starts with a version of “Last Stop” similar to that on “Before These Crowded Streets,” with the addition of beautiful background sax licks by Leroi Moore spread throughout the tune. Another key addition is the changes to the latter half of the song ? if you like the one-minute ending on the studio version where all the craziness calms its way into the acoustic sounds of Matthews and Bela Fleck, you’ll love the four-minute rendition performed here.
The morbid melody “Don’t Drink the Water” follows, this time with an electric guitar. The basic difference in this version is some background tinkering, whether it be the Radiohead-esque electric noise or the transition into a serene atmosphere for the last verse of the tune.
After yet another fantastic double-digit-minute long version of “#41” and the use of “#40” as an intro for “Lie In Our Graves,” the band performs “What Would You Say,” originally found on “Under the Table and Dreaming.”
After an intriguing 15-second violin intro into the vocals, the song follows its standard mediocre form, similar to that of the studio version. That is the only somewhat-negative comment you will see in this article.
A peaceful, brilliant intro for “Pantala Naga Pampa” follows ? because 40-second tunes frequently have 5 minute intros, as well as “Rapunzel” and “Stay.” These songs, along with “Don’t Drink the Water” and “Last Stop” indicate the band’s desire at the time of this recording, to promote what was then the upcoming release of “Before These Crowded Streets.”
The second CD starts off with “The Maker,” one of several DMB songs reflecting their intrigue with Christianity.
The common serene tone of this tune that Davetheists are used to hearing in concert or mp3s is replaced by a foot-tapping electric guitar background.
The upbeat tone is interesting in comparison to the usual style of “The Maker,” and effectively shows the band’s ability to improvise on any and all of its tunes.
Next up is the radio hit “Crash Into Me,” which, like “Don’t Drink the Water,” has quite a bit of background electric tinkering added to its usual form.
Following “Crash Into Me” is a 14-minute version of “Jimi Thing,” the last six of which are similar to an electric-blues band, representing the variety of musical genres DMB implements into its songs.
After the radio hits “So Much to Say” and “Too Much,” perhaps the greatest version of “Christmas Song” that the band has performed comes up.
The standard acoustic sound of “Christmas Song” is altered to include Carter Beauford on the drums and a switch by Dave Matthews to the electric guitar, continuing the electric trend of this particular show.
Next up is the strangest intro I’ve ever heard to a Dave Matthews song. The combination of a church-like organ and somber orchestra sound result in something that can only be described as “strange,” and left at that.
The intro leads into the well-known fan favorite and most frequently performed encore by the band, “All Along the Watchtower.”
As usual, Matthews starts off on the guitar, leading to the sudden uproar of the other band members, to create yet another invigorating and energizing version of “Watchtower.”
Overall, the album could’ve done with less electric Dave and more acoustic Dave, and perhaps a few more fan favorites and a few less of their radio-friendly tunes.
Regardless. It is the Dave Matthews Band, and it is once again the ingenious alteration of many of its great hits ? although its hard for a true fan to not categorize over 90 percent of their tunes as a great hit ? into a form which makes it seem as though you’re hearing the tune for the first time.
So for all you Davetheists, stop reading this article and go to the record store immediately. Everyone else, you wouldn’t understand.
Pal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.