Picks and Pans Review: Live at Luther College

Dave Matthews/Tim Reynolds (Bama Rags/RCA)

Last spring, when the Dave Matthews Band’s third studio album, Before These Crowded Streets, finally torpedoed the Titanic soundtrack off the No. 1 spot on the charts, the group’s founder and namesake was hailed as a savior of rock and roll. But Matthews, 32, who immigrated to Virginia in 1986 after getting drafted by his native South Africa’s apartheid-era army, is a performer more in the folk-protest tradition. He freights lyrics with heavy, sometimes grim messages and enjoys making often obvious allusions to everything from nursery rhymes to Beatles tunes. “Why all this hatred?” he sings in “Christmas Song,” “All you need is love/ You can’t buy me love/ And the blood of our children’s all around.” Here on this acoustic—but bombastic—double CD recorded in concert three years ago, Matthews is accompanied only by guitarist Tim Reynolds and primarily plays stripped-down versions of previously recorded tunes. Despite some virtuoso guitar interplay, the CD’s two-plus hours of music may be hailed by fans but probably not by those unfamiliar with Matthews’s odd vocal calisthenics and repetitive arrangements.

Bottom Line: Even without the backing band, Matthews’s sound is big and overblown

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