December 1997

Dave Matthews Band - Live at Red Rocks 8.15.95
Bama/Rags RCA CD 07863 67587-2
Released: 1997

by Jay Piriz

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ****

[Reviewed on CD]On October 28, 1997 the Dave Matthews Band released its newest work, Live at Red Rocks 8.15.95. Remember Two Things, which this band released in November 1993, was on an independent label. In March of this year, this effort was certified gold by the RIAA for sales of over 500,000; a rare feat for an independent album which received no major label promotion or distribution. In February of this year, DMB's song "So Much to Say" was awarded a Grammy for best rock performance by a duo or group with vocals. A song from their 1994 release, "Under The Table And Dreaming," helped the band sell over one-million copies of the album! In 1996, DMB released Crash which has not had the commercial success of their last release. The DMB is much more than a rock band however. This group creates polydimensional, often spontaneous music which results in multi-textured sounds derived from a great mix of different and at once complementary styles. Folk, jazz, rock, world beat, reggae, it's all a part of this colorful band's unique sound. This music is sophisticated and intelligent.

Dave Matthews is a self-taught guitar player who has had a life-long love affair with music. Born in South Africa in 1967, Matthews never graduated from high school. A genuine renaissance man, Matthews pursued his musical passion with a vengeance. Boyd Tinsley is a classically trained violinist who, until 1985, played nothing but precision classical music. Leroi Moore is also classically trained. He plays alto, tenor, soprano saxophone and flute. He is heavily influenced by the great jazz masters. Matthews credits Moore with arranging many of the songs he writes. Carter Beauford, the son of a jazz trumpet player, is the band's drummer. He describes the sound of the band as "acoustic, based on the early days of jazz with the classical influence of its members." Stefan Lessard, the upright bass player, joined the band at the tender age of 16. These musicians have been together as The Dave Matthews Band since 1991.

Live at Red Rocks is a double CD. There is a lot of fine music on this one. It includes all the DMB standards except that "live" they are all exponentionally better than the studio versions. Things don't get much funkier than "Recently," the sixth cut on the first disk. Matthews starts out the song with the late John Denver lyrics, "Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy, sunshine on my shoulders makes me high." The group then settles into an infectious groove that had me uncontrollably tapping my toes. The epitome of coolosity is Matthews' live rendition of "Dancing Nancies," the eighth cut on the first CD. Boyd Tinsley takes off on a wild fiddle ride with some beautiful work reminiscent of the classic violin on "White Bird" by It's a Beautiful Day. Remember them? Things really get cookin' at about 5:10 into this song. Tinsley is exceptional, and the whole band becomes homogenized. Beauford is quick on the drum kit, and the bassline laid down by Lessard is tight. The band cruises right into the next song "Warehouse," which has a melange of varying musical styles including a little latin jazz. Moore's sax is very smooth. The second CD also has some great music. The fourth cut, a song titled "Rhyme & Reason" is vintage DMB; borderline grunge, mixed with jazzy horns, a powerful driving bassline, even a slide guitar! It's a real mix of varied styles that work so well together. The song titled "#36" on this CD is prefaced by a very good drum solo. Beauford really kicks it! Matthews then moves into a scatty vocal trip that you have to hear to believe. All the while, the band is jammin'--strong bassline, great sax! At about 8:18 of this cut, it's just bass, guitar and drums. Turn it up! If your head isn't moving to and fro at this point, well go get your blood pressure checked. "Ants Marching," probably the song that the DMB is most well known for, is delivered with emotional impact and creative genius by all the musicians. Just listen to the basslines, drum rides, violin, and sax during the intro. Killer! The last two songs, "Typical Situation" and the Dylan favorite "All Along The Watchtower," are a treat!

The live recording on this CD is very acceptable. Not as good, however, as the Fleetwood Mac live CD, The Dance, also reviewed this month. But the performance is so very good that when you begin to really listen to the music, the recording itself becomes a non-issue. If you are a fan of the DMB, run right out and buy this CD. Its content is very familiar and very, very good. If you have never heard the DMB but enjoy complex multidimensional rock/jazz/latin/folk/reggae/world-beat music, this double CD might be just what the doctor ordered!

Take me in the morning.