When the time comes to make a live recording, performers take various approaches. A popular one is to reveal something of the artist's interaction with fans through stage remarks and audience participation. Down the Line, an energetic pop band from Chicago with an "unplugged" instrumentation (only Dave Rothkopf's bass is electrified, and there's no drummer), does not take that approach, but another popular one instead, that of packing as much music as possible onto the disc and presenting a sort of live "best-of." It's not quite the case that fans can throw away the group's three studio albums in favor of Home Alive, but an attempt has been made here to summarize what's most impressive about Down the Line in just under 73 minutes. That attempt is largely successful. Singer/songwriters Rothkopf and Dan Myers turn out a succession of catchy songs performed in compelling, and sometimes surprising, arrangements. An early highlight comes with the intense vocal harmonies that conclude "Change Your Mind" and set the crowd cheering. That gives the band a moment to say hello, but little time is given over to talking here; soon, it's on to the next song. A cover of Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" gives a hint of the group's musical taste, and many of their own songs are just as memorable, as they sing of the ups and downs of love, performing, and hanging out in bars. Given the relentlessness of the set list, it's interesting to note that the two songs written by djembe player Derek Fawcett, "Dion" and the final encore, "Smokin'," are standouts in a live context, given that Fawcett is mostly overshadowed on the studio albums by Rothkopf and Myers. The album works both as a sampler of Down the Line's music and as a concert souvenir. Maybe it will help them expand their base of operations geographically.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann