Better Than Ezra

Live at the House of Blues New Orleans [DVD]

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Better Than Ezra will be forever tied to the 1990s. The decade embraced Kevin Griffin's elastic vocals and his band's workmanlike blend of jangle chords and vague lyrical disaffection. They couldn't keep the hits alive post-Y2K, but Better Than Ezra has remained a popular club act, as Live at the House of Blues New Orleans proves. Since 2001's decent Closer, the band has settled into the House of Blues tour circuit, giving fans and casual listeners their fix of '90s flavor with hits like "Good" and "Rosealia." This live set captures BTE at just such a HOB gig, recorded in their hometown of New Orleans in August 2003. It's as passably rousing as you'd expect, with Griffin's voice translating well to the live environment and plenty of inspiration in his guitar playing and the bass work of Tom Drummond. The melodic urgency of "In the Blood" -- one of their best songs from back then -- is still vital, and the band even injects a little unexpected life into the somewhat embarrassing hip-hop/Beck patois of the Closer-era tracks "Extra Ordinary" and "Rolling." Griffin won't win any awards in the stage banter department, but fans will enjoy that the patter's left in here. And it's too bad "Desperately"'s melodic stridency is expanded to a bloated eight minutes, because the song's chorus still kicks. But those are minor issues on a set that's a nice thank-you to listeners who've stuck with Better Than Ezra for over ten years. Those same fans will also note Live at the House of Blues New Orleans' inclusion of two new Ezra studio recordings, "Cold Year" and "Stall." [The album was also released in a DVD version.]

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