Sound — 9
The Dave Matthews Band could easily be
considered the Grateful Dead of this generation. Yes, one could also throw that title at a band like Phish (for more genre-specific reasons), but Matthews and his bandmates have proven themselves to be at the top of their game when it comes to live performance and earned an intensely loyal fan base. Whatever they record on a studio album is extended exponentially into a grandiose jam, much like The Dead. The Dave Matthews Band has continued to churn out live album after live album since around 1997, and the latest release Live In New York City is a solid addition to that collection of concert material. Recorded on July 17, 2010, at Citi Field in Queens, New York, Live In New York City features 2 disks with 20 tracks included. A few of the staple biggies are covered namely Crash and Satellite but there's a nice mish mash of other past recordings that perhaps didn't earn the same notoriety as the aforementioned singles. The audio mix on Live In New York City lends itself to all of the musicians, but it also doesn't try to cover up the slightest exclamation or woo from the crowd. Plenty of bands are opting for cleaner mixes that put the attention primarily on the band itself (with the exception of applause at the end), but you can definitely hear the enthusiasm at every point on the Matthews' release. Live In New York City and all of Matthews' live albums are most worthwhile if you're a diehard fan who relishes in everything you can get your hands on record-wise. That's not to say that the musicianship isn't top notch as usual, but given the multiple live albums by the Dave Matthews Band out there, there's not a huge amount that sets Live In New York City apart from the rest. That being said, there are plenty of highlights, including a more exotic, lengthy version of Dancing Nancies that features astounding trumpet work from Rashawn Ross and an entertaining bit of scatting from Matthews in the first moments. Dave Matthews' trademark acoustic is an underlying factor that ties it all together, but it's usually the powerful horn section (rounded out by Jeff Coffin on saxophone) and Tim Reynolds' electric guitar work that make the biggest impression. Satellite and Two Step are the best examples of Reynolds' lead guitar taking the familiar songs in a whole other direction. Disk 2 contains the biggest wow moments, with the funky Stay, contemplative Gravedigger, grandiose Dancing Nancies, and an up-and-down emotional version of All Along The Watchtower being the standouts.
Lyrics — 7
The Dave Matthews Band covers a lot of ground lyrically over the 2 disks, with everything from love/sex (Crash Into Me) to reflections on society (Funny The Way It Is) to life choices (You Might Die Trying) among the themes. While there are certainly quirky/clever and thought-provoking content within that massive amount of music, but there are moments when things tend to get a big repetitive. The lyrics are enjoyable for the most part, but they often play a backseat to the music which obviously takes center stage during the lengthy jams.
Overall Impression — 8
It's refreshing to know that during this short-and-sweet era of music there is still a band delivering traditional guitar/bass/drum solos, and more importantly, not cutting them out of their live records. The Dave Matthews Band doesn't have a weak link in the band and that comes through consistently on every live record. Will Live In New York City offer a great deal more than the other live releases? Not necessarily, but the band does make every effort to tweak their arrangements (the horn section is a huge asset) and take some of the songs on very unusual creative paths along the way.