Live At Radio City

Long before is band was treating stadium crowds to sax solos and jammy polyrhythms, Dave Matthews was a frat-house troubadour, playing freewheeling acoustic gigs with his buddy, guitar whiz Tim Reynolds. Matthews has kept doing the occasional unplugged show through the years, and on this two-disc live album, recorded in April, much of his material stands up just fine without full-band wizardry. Matthews highlights the warm, sensitive-dude beauty at the heart of cuts like the previously unrecorded "Sister" and the old staple "Don't Drink the Water," which here sounds like an eerily pretty lullaby, not the dark banger the Dave Matthews Band plays it as. Elsewhere, Matthews and Reynolds rock as hard as two guys with acoustics can on uptempos like "Dancing Nancies" and "Corn Bread," a tossed-off goof thick with overlapping upper-register riffs and Matthews' pidgin Cajun drawl. Of course, no amount of adornments can help snoozers like the bluesy "Save Me," and there's more than a whiff of hippie-dippy indulgence in Matthews' slack, syllable-stretching voice and the noodle-y solos on an eight-minute-plus "Lie in Our Graves." One cherry-picking disc would have been plenty — unless, that is, you're one of the die-hard fans this set (and the accompanying DVD) was made for.

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