Review Summary: An excellent bootleg of an outstanding live band.
In August of 2003, I attended my first Dave Matthews Band show in Saratoga, NY. At the time I was not a big fan and had no idea what to expect. From the second the band came on stage to the time they left, I was absolutely blown away. The energy and emotion of both the band and the stage was incredible. For the past six years, I have spent countless hours listening to DMB, and have attended at least one show per summer. Out of all of the live bootlegs that the band has released, none have re-created the DMB concert experience more than Live in Central Park.
The Central Park Concert, which took place in September of 2003, was a free benefit show. The production of the album is very good, with a perfect balance between the crowd noise and the music. The Central Park Concert featured a 19 track set list, including several fan favorites and surprise guest Warren Haynes from the Allman Brothers. The lineup for the band was at the time:
Dave Matthews – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Stephan Lessard – Bass Guitar
LeRoi Moore – Saxophone
Boyd Tinsley – Violin
Carter Beauford – Drums
Butch Taylor - Keyboard
Warren Haynes (special guest) – Electric Guitar on “Cortez the Killer” and “Jimi Thing”
Dave Matthews Band began the concert with a familiar opener, Don’t Drink the Water. This particular version of the song is much more upbeat and energetic than the studio version and is definitely a highlight. The crowd is a factor here, especially noticeable in the chorus. Next the band performs two tracks from “Crash,” So Much to Say and Too Much. In between the songs, DMB played “Anyone Seen the Bridge,” which serves as a segue for the tracks. Too Much is especially good here, and Dave gets the crowd going by singing “You never know, f*ck it’s New York City.” DMB slows things down with a great sing-along version of Granny, and follows it up with the best version of Crush I have ever heard by the band. As I have said about this concert, the energy of both the band and crowd is incredible in Crush, and the jam section is excellent as well. Disc one concludes with When the World Ends, a love song from “Everyday.”
The energy becomes even more of a factor throughout disc 2, beginning with an extended version of the jam song Dancing Nancies. Both the intro and the jam section are lengthened here, and Dave sings in the intro, “Bartender please I know it’s late…” We then get to Warehouse, which again is much better live than on the record. The crowd is especially present in the intro, yelling “Whooh!” after each acoustic riff. The band continues to churn out fan favorites with Ants Marching, Rhyme and Reason, and a 19 minute rendition of Two Step. Two Step’s solo section is exceptional, featuring solo’s by all band members. B-side Help Myself rounds out disc 2.
In disc 3, the listener comes across arguably the highlight of the night. Dave introduces Allman Brothers Band guitarist Warren Haynes, and the band covers Neil Young’s Cortez the Killer. Hayne’s leads are phenomenal here, creating a great cover version of the song. Haynes stays on stay for DMB jam Jimi Thing, which runs over 16 minutes long with many solos. Without Haynes now, DMB continues with radio hits What Would You Say and Where Are You Going, which in my opinion is one of the weaker moments of the concert. Following is the band’s haunting cover of Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower, which starts slowly and quietly, eventually exploding at the end. The solo section features Tinsley, Taylor, and Moore respectively, and in the outro Dave screams “Fire!” The band leaves the stage after the song, and returns for the encore. The first two songs of the encore are the more powerful, Grey Street (new song at the time) and What You Are. Grey Street’s liveliness is a highlight and What You Are is haunting to the point that it is somewhat reminiscent to “Halloween.” The show concludes with Stay (Wasting Time), which was another single, but is one of the bands weaker songs in my opinion.
Overall, “The Central Park Concert” is a tremendous representation of what a Dave Matthews Band show is really about. I would strongly recommend this to fans of the band, and for those who are attempting to get into the band.
Don’t Drink the Water
Cortez the Killer
All Along the Watchtower