Release Date: 11.23.99
Record label: BMG / RCA
Genre(s): Movies, Film Scores, Musicals, Etc.
Listener Supported by Saxophonist Moore
by: matt halverson
When a band releases a live recording, it's usually for one of two reasons: they are either documenting a performance so special it deserves, no begs, to be experienced by all fans of the band, or the band is simply capitalizing on its fame and releasing a performance of mediocre quality in order to tide its fans over until the next studio recording. Unfortunately for fans of Dave Matthews Band, the latter is the case with Listener Supported, the band's latest live recording, and the second to be released in 1999.
Recorded at Continental Airlines Arena in New Jersey in early fall, the set, released in its entirety, includes several songs, such as Warehouse and All Along the Watchtower, that have appeared on both previous live recordings. The listener is left to wonder just how exciting a DMB concert can be if songs are repeated live as often as these releases suggest. Although the list of songs ranges from the band's Under the Table and Dreaming through the most recent Before These Crowded Streets, the selections do little to showcase the wide-ranging talent of the five-piece band.
However, Listener is not without some merit. There are no self-indulgent jams that makes the listener question if the band has mysteriously slipped into a new, untitled song as is sometimes the case with several of today's "jam-bands." To their credit, Matthews and Co. are able to create tight, snappy jams that rarely become stagnant or venture into directionless noodling, even those that surpass the ten-minute mark. Instead, they serve as interesting codas to the studio versions of such songs as "Jimi Thing" and "#41."
In particular, "Two Step" is a masterful blend of changes of pace, solos and improvisation. Weighing in at a hefty 14 minutes, the fan favorite evolves into a new creation instead of drifting into incomprehensibility. With each new segment, the band is able to take something from the previous one to create a song that is truly greater than the sum of its parts. As the spotlight is turned on guest pianist Butch Taylor, yet another traveling minstrel in the tradition of banjoist Bela Fleck and Blues Traveler front man John Popper to join the band, the song shifts from drummer Carter Beauford's lonesome march to an airy dance across Taylor's keyboard, culminating in a crash of cymbals and blast of baritone saxophone.
The other bright spot in this otherwise mediocre recording is saxophonist Leroi Moore. The high-charged electricity of violinist Boyd Tinsley for once takes a step back and allows the usually timid Moore to shine. With solos that last as long as (and require more talent than) some pop songs, Moore is given the chance to showcase his range from melodic on #41, to funk-laden on "Jimi Thing," to just plain fun on "Rapunzel."
The average music listener is likely to shudder at the thought of yet another live Dave Matthews Band recording. At this rate the band will have as many live albums under their collective belt as studio releases. However, the few high points in the recording suggest the possibility of good things in the future. For Matthews and his cohorts' sake, let's hope the public doesn't become sick of them before they hear what's yet to come.