September 26th, 2006
by Thom Jurek
The sixth volume in the Dave Matthews Band's Live Trax series is a whopping four-disc box. It's sold fairly cheap — $29.98 — and there are no frills. It contains two complete concerts recorded in July of 2006 at Fenway Park in Boston. Like the other recordings in this series, the sound is gorgeous.
The track selection between the two evenings contains no song duplications. Trumpeter Rashawn Ross guests on the majority of the tunes, and keyboard wiz Butch Taylor is here throughout. Of the two performances, the July 7th gig is more passionate and has a more upbeat feel, especially on the raw, from-the-heart version of "Crash into Me," which contains a riff from Lowell George's "Dixie Chicken," and what immediately follows, in "Jimi Thing," where Stephen Stills' "For What It's Worth" makes an appearance. (The latter worked better when Robert Randolph guested on it to dress it up.) It's a more song-oriented gig in general, though there are four long jams in the first concert.
The July 8th gig is much looser, though it's not without its own novelty in the DMB's cover of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline." It reveals the band's jamming side as the central aspect of the concert. There are also three new cuts, but in a sense, these aren't even important. What this package does better than any of the other volumes is reveal the essence of the Dave Matthews Band, what crowd-pleasers they are, how they appeal to a mass audience, and how they crackle with energy, but the music can be diffuse — trancelike with elongated, hypnotic simple chord patterns tossed about and only the rhythm section drifting it off into something else. It also reveals the sheer ambition of Matthews as a singer. He's not singing from his nose as much anymore; the longer cuts allow him to dig into his belly more and let it rip.
Sure, the tape traders and the Internet members already have these gigs, but their presentation here is stellar and pristine — though most listeners could have lived without yet another version of "Ants Marching." Some of the forced funkiness of the earlier live offerings has been done away with and Matthews concentrates more on what he is: a singer and a songwriter with a band that can spin his compositions out into the world as something more elaborate and entrancing.