Thursday, January 14, 2016

Dave Matthews Band - Live Trax 4

by TC

In early September, 2005, five months since Volume 3, Live Trax Volume 4 was released.  (And, in case you couldn't tell, this is husband checking in on the blog for today.  Hello Inter-world.)

DMB Live Trax Volume 4

1) Two Step »
2) Say Goodbye »
3) Richmond Jam
4) Too Much
5) So Much to Say
6) Crash Into Me
7) #41
8) Lie in Our Graves
9) Jimi Thing
10) Ants Marching
11) Proudest Monkey »
12) Satellite
13) Cry Freedom
14) Drive In Drive Out
15) Typical Situation
16) Little Thing
17) All Along The Watchtower
18) Tripping Billies

This show is definitely in the "historically significant" category.  It's the Crash album release party show.  It also marks the beginning of multi-track recording for every show of the band.  Up to this point, only certain shows had been multi-tracked.  From here on out, unless there was an error in the recording (which does happen from time to time), there are multi-tracks of every show.  In addition, from the album notes we learned that this is when DMB inherited the Grateful Dead's sound system and were able to put on a much better sounding show than before.  Of course, Crash is the album which took the band from stardom to super-stardom and they put that sound system to good use during the upcoming summer tour.

Personally, this show is right around the time when I first got into the band.  Crash was the first DMB album I got, and I got it for my birthday in 1996 (I was thirteen years old).  I played that album a lot over the next few years.  (Admittedly though, I didn't get Under the Table and Dreaming, the band's previous record, until I was almost thirty.  Go figure.)

Fans are divided about the quality of the show.  It's the first time a lot of these songs had been heard in their post-recorded form.  Most of the Crash album had been played during the band's early days in various iterations and with different lyrics.  However, this was the first time that lyrics had been set, arrangements were finalized, and the songs were ready to go.  Two Step, Say Goodbye, #41, Proudest Monkey, and Drive In Drive Out all have some varying degrees of change to them and this is, besides a late 1995 show in New York, the first opportunity to hear these versions.  And, new songs Too Much and Crash Into Me made their debut.

As with anything new, the songs and performances do not have many years of "road-testing" behind them.  They are young and raw.  The band had just taken one of it's longest breaks up to that point (in reality, it was just a few months).  Dave certainly kept busy, touring with Tim Reynolds over the winter of 1996 - a tour which produced the live album Live at Luther College (and later, Live Trax 23 - we'll get there).  The rest of the band was not touring with these songs and were just settling back into the groove of playing live together again.

In short, a lot of fans will advise you that there's nothing special on this disc, that the band is loose, out of tune, sloppy, yada, yada, yada.  I'll put it this way - if you're expecting Live Trax 3 tight, this isn't the album for you.  This is a fun show where the band was able to play some new songs and take their new sound out for a spin.  It's not intended as the definitive performance of anything, it's intended as the introductory performance of great songs.  If you listen to it with that in mind, it sounds just fine.

The show starts with Two Step, fresh from it's "neutering" in the studio.  Say Goodbye never had set lyrics anyway, even on the recording, and this version continues the tradition of Dave making it up as he goes along each night.  The real gem of this show, in my opinion, is the Richmond Jam (as fans have called it - it's credited as Untitled Jam on the release).  It's a very light riff and doesn't really develop into anything more than a loose improvisation.  I do wonder if this was an aborted idea the band had in the studio or if it was something more.  I do know this was the one and only time it ever appeared on stage and so it's great to have it released here.

Too Much and So Much to Say are up next, in reverse order of how many fans know them.  Anyone Seen The Bridge, the interlude between the two, hadn't been written yet and these two songs were stand alones.  After years of hearing them together it's certainly a bit jarring to hear them in reverse.  Crash Into Me is up next, the song that made the band.  This is a fine performance, nothing special, but nothing awful either.  At full band shows, #41 was at this point a much looser jam known to fans as "41 Police."  (Check out the DMBLive from Cameron Indoor Stadium, 04.07.1995, to listen to the debut performance.)  It slowed down and evolved into one of the most played songs in the catalog.  This is a short and sweet version here.  The reworked Lie In Our Graves follows, with Boyd Tinsley taking the solo instead of Leroi Moore.  This solo is still Boyd's, and it will always be his too.  (I do enjoy those Leroi solos though...I wish they'd try it that way once in a while just to keep it different.)

For those of you keeping count, that was a run of 8(!) "new" songs to start the show.  At this point, the show gets back to some hits with a stellar version of Jimi Thing and Ants Marching.  Ants on this particular album has one of the oddest sounding snare drum intros to me for some reason...if you have the record, compare the sound here to the sound on Live Trax 3.  It sounds much different, doesn't it?

written by TC 

The show goes back to a new song.  Proudest Monkey, complete with new lyrics, debuts and segues into Satellite.  Cry Freedom is up next, followed by the set closer Drive In Drive Out.  This and Live Trax 18 are my favorite versions of Drive In Drive Out.  Placement as a set closer isn't  great for me, but this version isn't as bothersome to me as others.

The encore is huge.  Typical Situation and All Along the Watchtower had been a regular encore for the band in 1995.  In addition, this show as the last full band Little Thing to date and a monster Tripping Billies (for the time) to close out the show.

As for sound, this one does have the odd sounding snare drum going for it.  It sounds fine though overall.  It settles into a nice balance very quickly.

I give this one 3 out of 5 stars, which is probably higher than most fans, because of the encore and the unreleased Richmond Jam.  There's not a single version of any song here which is in the running for being the definitive anything (MAYBE Little Thing, but most people would put that in the Dave & Tim category anyway), and the melodies of certain songs are still being played around with on stage to sound the way we all know them by heart.  But, it's a great show that marks a line in the sand for the band - there was no going back to the small time.  This band was a major player in the music scene and was going to be playing amphitheaters, not clubs, going forward.  Twenty five years in, they remain one of the top touring acts year after year in part because of the songs they debuted on this night almost twenty years ago.

For a purchase recommendation, I'd get this one before I got Live Trax 2.  But, if you're strapped for cash, you can pass on it.  Live Trax 18 was recorded just a little over a month after this show and has better performances of almost everything.  I'll get to the formal review of it later (my sources tell me that will be after my review of Live Trax 17), but I'd recommend getting that one first.

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