Dave Matthews Band - Listener Supported

Dave Matthews Band
Listener Supported


First Appeared at The Music Box, March 2000, Volume 7, #3

Written by Steven Shepard


Listener Supported, the latest double-live album release from the Dave Matthews Band, is an engaging and delightful example of the appeal of the Charlottesville, Virginia five piece. The album's clever title pays homage to the rabid brethren who have been packing in arenas and amphitheaters since 1995, and thrive off the spontaneity and energy of the band's smooth and unique sound. Much like Live at Red Rocks the band's 1997 release, Listener Supported showcases the group's snappy pop numbers, Dave Matthews' clever and thoughtful lyrics, and the ever present undercurrents of a jazz band hard at work.

The two-disc collection gets off to a ripping start with Rapunzel, which also drops the first hints as to who the real star of this show is multi-instrumentalist Leroi Moore. His sax playing for the ending "jam" is sultry and smooth, with the rest of the band popping and snapping to a glorious climax. #41, a fan favorite, is a testament to Moore's flexibility as he swiftly maneuvers between a flute and saxophone. His nearly four-minute sax solo is breezy and in perfect harmony with the always changing tempo of Carter Beauford's drumming. Moore also gets cooking on Jimi Thing, which is a lyrically clever ode to nature's finest herb. The groove is a blend of soul and funk, and Moore takes his time whipping his sax into a frenzy of high notes, nearly bringing down the house. Other highlights of the first disc are Crash into Me, which features the band building slowly to a downright sexy peak while Matthews sweetly sings his heartfelt pleas for attention; and #36, a groovy, mellowed out improvisational number.

The second disc is almost as engaging as the first, but it certainly doesn't start out that way. Too Much one of the band's most recognizable radio songs is a bore as is the following track True Reflections. Violinist Boyd Tinsley is successful with the lead vocals on the latter song, but the tune still lacks the playful energy of the other tracks on this set.

One of the strangest enigmas of Listener Supported is Two Step, a down-home stomp in 6/8 time with a call for everyone to celebrate. The song rails with passion until the ending jam, which is given to supporting keyboard player Butch Taylor. Taylor's stiff playing causes the song to meander to an almost dead halt before Beauford can save it with a knock-your-socks off drum fill.

The remainder of the collection captures the band at their finest. The group delivers a grinding version of Don't Drink the Water, which may be Matthews' best composition to date. He tells his tale from the point of view of the greedy, slave-owning, white man and chronicles the banishment of the Native American Indians from North American soil. The crown jewel of this set, however, is a cover of the Americana classic Long Black Veil. Beauford provides an eerily catchy backbeat and the musicians gel perfectly for a dark and beautiful masterpiece that, in the right setting, could move you to tears.

Listener Supported initially might not appeal to everybody, but it should at least be given a chance. It's refreshing to listen to five musicians interact on stage rather than viewing pretty faces and hearing loud guitars going through the motions. With yet another live album under their belt and their continued success at selling out tours, the Dave Matthews Band is moving, dare I say, into Grateful Dead territory in appeal.

Is the Dave Matthews Band the Dead? Obviously not, but they don't have to be. The times are different as well as the players but the appeal is the same. It's about the joy and release of great live music, and Listener Supported is a celebration of it. starstarstar

Listener Supported is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


Copyright 2000 The Music Box