DMB and friends rock Chicago

by Sam Lederer | 10/25/01 5:00am

Experienced fans of the Dave Matthews Band know to expect a good show when they enter an arena to hear the group play. The fans going into the United Center in Chicago on December 19, 1998 thought they knew what to expect. "Live in Chicago 12.19.98," the latest concert release from the DMB, was recorded that night.

Aided by a host of talented guests, the Dave Matthews Band is able to create a very interesting and unusual sound on the album.

The two-disc set, which was recorded during the Band's "Before These Crowded Streets" tour, is the DMB's fourth live album. The set, at two hours, is a little shorter than typical Dave Matthews Band concerts, but what the show loses in length, it makes up for with experimentation and variety. In addition to performing five songs from "Before These Crowded Streets," the album's setlist reaches back to earlier releases such as "Crash" (1996) and the band's sophomore album, "Under the Table and Dreaming" (1994). The album also feautres a handful of unreleased tracks.

The show begins with a rare live version of "The Last Stop." The track has musical influences of the Middle East and lyrically, carries a harsher message than other Matthews songs. But, the lead singer turns this performance into a great live rendition, taking advantage of his emotionally charged yet dark lyrics that demonstrates Matthews versatility and skill as a vocalist.

The third selection, "#41," is easily the best track on the album. Acclaimed Flecktones bassist, Victor Wooten, joins the band on stage to create an unforgettable version of the song. The group performs the song perfectly -- not a note is missed -- and then segues into an extended jam with a cool funk flavor

Solos by violinist Boyd Tinsley, sax player Leroi Moore and finally Wooten give the song a twist that varies greatly from the studio recording. But, this departure is a completely positive one, as the band experiments with sounds rarely heard on previous albums.

Following this gem is another great live song, "Lie in Our Graves," which is preceded by the acoustic intro, "#40." The 12-minute song includes a lengthy jam that showcases guest electric guitar player, Tim Reynolds, who collaborated with Matthews on "Live at Luther College." The jam, with classical and rock elements occurs at the climax of the song when Matthews yells, "I'm blown away!" Reynolds' funky guitar solo is reminiscent of the stylings of Funkadelic guitar player, Eddie Hazel.

Maceo Parker, legendary sax player from James Brown's band and Parliament, joins the band on stage for an inventive version of "What Would You Say." The song contains a memorable Parker solo followed by a Tinsley solo.

"Rapunzel" is equally as inventive, as the electric guitar is integrated into the rhythm of the song more so than on the studio recording. The song closes with a frenzied, fast paced jam.

"Stay" showcases Matthews' abilities as a versatile and passionate singer. Three female backup singers usually sing the end part of the song, which consists of many high notes. But, in their abscence, Dave hits every high note without a hitch and creates a very interesting version of the soft love song.

The unreleased track "The Maker" begins the second half of the show. Guitar player Mitch Rutman and Wooten come on stage to produce a mellower jam to conclude the religious song.

The modern pop classic "Crash Into Me" contains a sampling of lyrics from the Little Feat song, "Dixie Chicken." A 14-minute version of "Jimi Thing" follows with a hard rock solo by Reynolds evoking associations to guitar legend, Jimmy Page.

The fast pace of the show is slowed down with the acoustic, "Christmas Song." Showing his command over the awestruck audience, Dave exclaims, to a chorus of cheers, "I wrote it about a man who got screwed."

The encore of the set, "All Along the Watchtower," maintains the unique and experimental tone of the show. A high-pitched violin section at the beginning of the song creates the effect of a foreboding storm, echoing Dave's emotional crescendo "the wind began to howl!"

A slow and mellow jam follows in which Tinsley plays his violin like a guitar. The moderate pace of the jam is a respite of sorts for the audience following the rapid tempo of the show.

"Live in Chicago 12.19.98" has a distinct flow and unity, elements that are lacking in many concerts by today's artists. These essential qualities of a good show, combined with the array of guest artists and experimentation make this easily the band's best live album. It is obvious that those attending the concert on that December evening got more than just a good show. They got a glimpse of the Dave Matthews Band that no one had seen before.

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