Ever since a Shawn Colvin concert first inspired Vance Gilbert to abandon his career as a jazz singer and throw himself head first into Boston's bustling folk scene, he has been developing and maintaining a reputation as one of the most dynamic and entertaining live performers in folk music. But he has always been resistant to the idea of a concert album. Fortunately for listeners, Gilbert's popularity eventually wore down his resistance. On May 5, 1999, Gilbert joined his good friend Ellis Paul at Boston's Somerville Theatre for a three hour concert -- with tape rolling. Paul's set is contained on the two-disc Ellis Paul Live, while Gilbert's was released in the form of Somerville Live. It's clear that Gilbert will live up to the buzz about his live act right from the introduction, in which the singer banters with an eight-year-old fan. He bounds through the 60-minute set (which is presented virtually unedited), slamming out "Watching a Good Thing Burn" and "Why Are We So Cruel?" with a rapid Ani DiFranco-esque funk-folk guitar technique, emoting passionately on ballads like "Charlene" and "High Rise," belting out an a cappella Al Jarreau cover, and riffing hilariously on topics as wide ranging as religion, friendship, and Teletubbies. He even provides a side-splitting impression of Billie Holiday. As an unexpected bonus, the CD includes two enhanced videos that can be viewed on a computer. The first is of a live performance of "Taking It All to Tennessee," a song Gilbert wrote for Ellis Paul. The second features Paul singing background vocals on "Amelia." The videos are icing on an already well-frosted cake that may constitute Gilbert's best album so far.
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AllMusic Review by Evan Cater