Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds: Live in Las Vegas

RIYL: Dave Matthews, Dave Matthews Band, owning multiple versions of the same song

Record labels have always been eager to sell music fans repackaged goods, and since the dawn of the CD era, the marketplace has been more flooded than ever with remixes, so-called “deluxe” versions, remasters, and all manner of different versions of the same thing. Still, even during a century that has brought us three different iterations of The Essential REO Speedwagon, Dave Matthews stands out as a mighty king of the leftover; since 1997, he’s released approximately 375 live albums, not counting the interminable Live Trax series, whose volumes now outnumber the population of Guam.

Adding to this towering stack of repetition is Live in Las Vegas, Matthews’ third double-disc live collaboration with guitarist Tim Reynolds. When the duo released Live at Luther College in 1999, it actually represented a bit of a nice departure for Matthews; the acoustic setting, while not altogether unfamiliar for his songs, added something different to tracks like “What Would You Say” and “Ants Marching.” But then came 2007’s Live at Radio City, which was essentially two more discs of the same thing, right down to the inclusion of four tracks that had been covered on Luther – and because Matthews’ fans will apparently never stop buying this stuff, he and Reynolds have returned for a third go-round.

Matthews is a prolific guy, but if you’ve already guessed that he’s running out of songs that he and Reynolds haven’t already covered, you’re correct: Just about half of Live in Las Vegas consists of songs that popped up on Luther or Radio City (or both). They toss in a few cuts from the Dave Matthews Band’s last studio album, Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, as well as a “Kashmir” cover that starts off nifty before dissolving into masturbatory guitar noodling, but on the whole, this is two and a half hours of music you can hear on other albums – and much of it in a musical setting that isn’t appreciably different from what’s on offer here. Unless you’re a hardcore fan, you’ll be hard pressed to tell the difference.

But it’s the hardcore fans that keep lapping this stuff up, of course, which begs the question of at which point Matthews crosses over from dedicated live anthologist to crass exploiter. Really, the only truly interesting thing about Live in Las Vegas is that it exists – that Matthews knows he has plenty of fans who will be willing to buy it, or anything else he releases, no matter how many times they’ve heard it before. Given the extraordinary difficulty the industry has had selling records over the last decade, the RIAA should probably just pack it in and let Dave Matthews run the whole show. If he can sell people Live in Las Vegas, he can sell them anything. (RCA 2010)

Dave Matthews Band MySpace page


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