Cast: Dave Matthews, Tim Reynolds
"Dave Matthews And Tim Reynolds Live At Radio City" in many ways sets the new standard for the way we watch concerts in a home theater environment. To be sure, I've never actually purchased a CD or DVD by Dave Matthews in the past, but I always had respect for him as a musician, even if a couple of his songs ended up on a couple of soundtracks to questionable movies in the past. And he is a storyteller, and a good one at that. Initially I was quite excited about the prospect of a full-scale band, knowing that some of his music included quite a variety of different sounds, including electric violin and saxophones and backup singers and probably bongo drums, and yet the songs on this two disc release are simply Dave Matthews and his longtime friend and collaborator Tim Reynolds playing acoustic guitars. This was originally disappointing to me, I'm normally not the biggest fan of acoustic style jams, but these two sound great together, and their passion is quite contagious.
In Charlottesville, Virginia in 1991, singer, songwriter and guitarist Dave Matthews decided to start a band after slipping a demo of some songs he had written to a lawyer friend of his. After that, this friend was convinced enough by Matthew's talents to convince him to shop around the local music scene for some musicians (of which there were many) to work on a studio version. And so The Dave Matthews Band was born. And the lineup has changed many times over the years, with many different collaborators and guests dropping by to record, including Carlos Santana and Alanis Morrisette. The group hit it big with the release of their first album, "Under The Table And Dreaming" in 1994 and it had three commercial hits that catapulted Matthews and his band to international stardom, and many still are constantly being repeated on the airwaves, but the appeal of his music actually goes far deeper for many, He has a hardcore fan base that is extremely dedicated, much like Phish or the Grateful Dead. His personal style of songwriting and environmental and social activism also earn him much admiration in liberal circles. He did a benefit for the Katrina victims and also played a free concert recently in memory of the Virginia Tech victims.
As for this release, he bypasses the band like I mentioned and it's simply him and Reynolds playing very good music, and they sound great. They are extremely comfortable onstage, and although they (or the audience for that matter) don't move around much (and neither does the camera), this is an amazing performance. Wonderful, entertaining and emotional at times. The stories told between each song are always captivating, and he is so comfortable onstage that it is easy to forget he is actually at Radio City Music Hall. It is reminiscent of the VH-1 series "Storytellers" at times, but much better visually and audibly. Many of the songs have some really fascinating stories behind them, and when he starts talking about something controversial he never sounds pretentious, and often he is actually quite funny, which was surprising to me. Even though there isn't a lot going on as far as moving around, it is more than made up with by excellent performances of twenty six different songs, most of which I've never heard, and they were all great! I see why he has such a strong and loyal fan base, I especially like his darker tunes, and most of his songs are actually quite dark. I have gained respect for a musician I had previously written off because of these two discs. Excellent live performance by both of them, and Tim Reynolds is truly talented, these two really come together onstage and you can tell they are very close friends. I am surprised by how much I enjoyed it, they really command the stage.
The set list includes the following: 1. Bartender, 2. When the World Ends, 3. Stay or Leave, 4. Save Me, 5. Crush, 6. So Damn Lucky, 7. Gravedigger, 8. The Maker, 9. Old Dirt Hill (Bring That Beat Back), 10. Eh Hee, 11. Betrayal, 12. Out of My Hands, 13. Still Water, 14. Don't Drink the Water, 15. Oh, 16. Corn Bread, 17. Crash Into Me, 18. Down By The River, 19. You Are My Sanity, 20. Sister, 21. Lie In Our Graves, 22. Some Devil, 23. Grace Is Gone, 24. Dancing Nancies, 25. #41, 26. Two Step.
Now onto the video quality. I was excited before I opened the package because it says on the back full 1080P24 HD resolution in 16:9 widescreen on a dual layer BD-50 encoded using VC-1, and let me tell you, it is nothing short of breathtaking. In fact it raises the bar for high definition music releases because the level of detail is nothing short of astounding. I have never seen Radio City Music Hall in all its glory until now. And the subdued style of directing compliments the often mellow songs perfectly. The dark levels are perfect and you can see every whisker on Matthews face and the texture of their clothing is three dimensional. Not to mention the details in the faces of the audience, if you were at this concert, prepare to hit the pause button, because there you will be. It was filmed with nine different high definition cameras, and the video is very film like and the color reproduction is outstanding. I have never seen a more well balanced and outstanding picture on a music release, period, this sets the new standard. You have to see it for yourself, they really went all the way with this one, and I am utterly impressed.
And the audio is just as outstanding, we have PCM Stereo Sound (48kHz/24bit) and a phenomenal sounding Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround Sound (96kHYz/24bit). The surround field is very active and the acoustics of Radio City Music Hall are captured like never before, you truly feel like you are there, and the sounds of the audience are thrilling and never distracting from the music. This sounds better I'm sure than it did even live. Finally we have a music release to compare all others to, this is outstanding in every way, you simply have to hear it for yourself. Subtle and not aggressive or gimmicky with surround effects, this release is truly an achievement in sonic design and should certainly win an award. The best I have ever heard on my system, hands down.
On disc two we have an excellent documentary, 'So Damn Lucky', that runs about forty five minutes, it is also in 1080p and basically has ecstatic interviews with some hardcore fans but more interestingly lets Tim and Dave tell about their long history. Apparently, Dave was a bartender at the bar called Miller's where Tim Reynolds played and that's how they met. That is back when Dave Matthews had very long hair and was a huge fan of Tim Reynolds. And look at them now playing a sold out gig at Radio City. They also tell very personal and even shocking stories and it is obvious they have had some fun times in the past, partying together with mushrooms and whatnot. They are just as engaging and entertaining on this documentary as they are in concert, and Dave Matthews or Reynolds truly don't seem to take their fame and good fortune for granted and appear to not be egotistical or off putting like some artists can get. An excellent special feature, to be sure. And isn't it great they put it on a second disc so as not to compromise the awesome sound and picture on disc one? We also have a high def photo montage that is interesting.
So, there you have it. "Dave Matthews And Tim Reynolds Live At Radio City" is quite simply, in my opinion, the finest live music release ever in history as far as sound and picture, and that is an event to notice. I was shocked, and even if you aren't the biggest fan (like myself) you may want to pick this up and give it a spin, because it is truly an amazing achievement by all involved.