Dave Matthews

Live at Luther College

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After the bootleg industry was revolutionized by CDs in the late '80s, it seemed that every contemporary recording artist had at least one bootleg on the market. It wasn't that studio outtakes were suddenly available -- it was that it was easier than ever to record, press, and distribute live concerts. Rock bands who jammed, whether they were hard rockers like Pearl Jam or noodlers like Phish, were in particular demand since, as the adage goes, no two shows were exactly alike. Given this insatiable appetite for new live records, it's a wonder that more artists didn't make like Dave Matthews and launch a series of official releases of notable live shows. It especially makes sense in Matthews' case, since his band sounds better and is more adventurous in a live setting than it is in the studio, as the first installment, Live at Red Rocks, illustrated. Its follow-up, Live at Luther College, takes a different tactic. Instead of featuring the band, it's Matthews alone acoustically, supported by his friend, session guitarist Tim Reynolds. The double-disc album was culled from the duo's 1996 tour, and not surprisingly, the bulk of the material focuses on Matthews' first two albums for RCA. What is surprising is that the songs arguably sound better in this setting, since all of the group improvisations are stripped away, leaving the songs to speak for themselves. Accordingly, Matthews isn't nearly as eccentric in his vocal tics, letting the music flow simply and engagingly. The results are quite entertaining, and even if the album was intended just for fans, it's the rare specialty item that could win new listeners.

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