This collection marks the fifth live Matthews collection in eight years. But while previous surveys have chronicled the band's nascent ambitions (Remember Two Things
), initial fame (Live at Red Rocks
), solo pretensions (Live at Luther College
) and PBS-ready charms (Listener Supported
), this double-disc set, recorded at the final show of their '98 tour, seems bent on formally crowning Matthews and company as arena-filling superstars--warts and all.
With a set listing culled largely from the pop-oriented Crash and more internationally experimental Before These Crowded Streets, the proceedings held some promise. But, like most arena bands before them, the DMB generally amps the nuances right out of the mix here. "The Last Stop" recalls where Led Zep's own world-music pretensions led them, while "Pantala Naga Pampa" skirts dangerously close to Kenny G. territory before finding its jazz-funk stride. Though they groove mightily and consistently throughout, the DMB's oft-criticized jam-band ethos often seems strangely burnished and studio-overdubbed to homogenous extremes here. And while legend Maceo Parker's sax further ignites the crowd-pleaser "What Would You Say," as guitarist and frequent Matthews collaborator Tim Reynolds plays guest guitar god throughout, it's Matthews's own shamanic, oft-trancelike vocal excursions that barely keep this one from lapsing into DMB's McLive album. Try Budokan next time? --Jerry McCulley