Dave Matthews / Dave Matthews Band

Listener Supported

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Time was, live albums were rarities in a group's catalog. Sure, during the '70s almost every band released a live set, but usually they didn't release more than one. Twenty years later, there were legions of bands that commonly released live albums, none more prominent than the Dave Matthews Band. With the release of the double-disc Listener Supported in 1999, they now had four live albums to their credit (including their self-released debut, Remember Two Things, and Matthews' solo set Live at Luther College). Why did they have so many live albums? Mainly because they wanted to beat the bootleggers, who discovered that certain bands had voracious audiences who would listen to anything the group released. Once Dave Matthews discovered he had one of those bands and that he had scores of unofficial discs on the market, he decided to released official live albums on a regular basis. A good business decision, and one that's helpful for voracious fans, but it has the effect of diluting his discography somewhat, especially when the end result is as ordinary as Listener Supported. If Live at Red Rocks captured an exceptional show and Live at Luther College was a document of a special event, Listener Supported merely finds the band delivering an average concert. However, there is a slight difference. Unlike audience tapes and bootlegged shows, which, in an ideal world, would capture a band loose and unaware, the concert on Listener Supported was recorded for a PBS television show, In the Spotlight. Strangely, this may have affected their performance somewhat, since there just isn't much energy to the recording. Of course, part of the problem is that DMB don't really explore new musical territory through improvisations -- they just settle into a groove and ride it. Not that there's anything wrong with that -- it makes for enjoyable shows -- but it does mean that there's not as much identity to an individual DMB show as there is in, say, a Phish show. When the band nails the groove, as they did on Red Rocks, they can be more engaging than they are on record. But if they just float on by, as they do on Listener Supported, it's flatter than the record, especially since the songs and jams never really go anywhere. If you're already a fan -- a very devoted fan -- that's fine, but unless you're hardcore, listening to these two discs nonstop will be a little dull. DMB are capable of more than this -- they proved that with their first official live set -- but Listener Supported just captures them on an off night.

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