Music

Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds: Live in Las Vegas

Matthews and Reynolds reunite for a disc that is suited for Dave-Heads only


Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds

Live in Las Vegas

Label: RCA
US Release Date: 2010-02-09
UK Release Date: 2010-02-09
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iTunes

How many effects pedals can Tim Reynolds fit onto a stage? How close can he get those sounds to those of an electronic synthesizer, violin, or cello? How important are the rest of those guys who methodically sprinkle their talents through each and every Dave Matthews Band record? And, my God. How many versions of “Two Step” can a listener take?

“How” seems to be a good word to describe the latest effort from a Dave Matthews without a band and a Tim Reynolds with a distinct desire to perform with easily his most important music friend. “Why” though, seems to be a more potent choice of words throughout the duo’s latest live offering, Live in Las Vegas, the third in which Matthews explores his softer side with a tricky acoustic guitarist who can’t help but at least try to upstage his counterpart with fast playing and quirky sounds. Sure, the question of “how” may be answered objectively, using numbers and quantities to come to an answer, but the truly impossible inquiry here really is “why.” Why do they keep putting these albums out?

1996’s Live at Luther College was a welcome change of pace. It introduced Dave-heads to the relatively unknown guitar virtuoso Tim Reynolds and allowed fans to see how funny and odd Matthews can be at his live shows extensively for the first time. It took over 10 years to decide to do it again with 2007’s Live at Radio City, an effort that displayed how much the novelty of the two performing together had worn off. Now, with Vegas, one has to wonder how they could possibly justify releasing yet another collection of performances of songs better heard with Matthews’s impeccable backing band.

So, why? Sure, the true believers will buy this set, mostly because it will fill in the holes of their Dave-obsessed collection, but why would any casual Matthews listener pop the 10 to 15 bucks to listen in on a show that offers nothing new to any of the songwriter’s songs? And with only two new tracks, both of which tend to slip into boredom easily without the color that explodes from most other DMB songs, why go through the process of putting out an entire album around this concert?

The key track on Vegas is clearly the duo’s take on Led Zeppelin’s classic “Kashmir”. An attempt to spice the night up, Reynolds pulls out all his tricks while you can feel Matthews slobbering on himself as he watches the guitarist fill in the instrumental holes with quick runs and atmospheric sound effects. The performance, though, falls way short of memorable as a few minutes in, as you quickly realize that even with an above-average acoustic guitarist, it’s impossible for two people to capture the fun and the attitude of the original. Especially if one of those guys happens to be the dude who wrote “Crash Into Me”.

Other DMB staples are pedestrian at best. “Two Step” has become so predictable, it’s hard to think the track is anywhere near any die-hard fan’s top five. “Typical Situation” and “Bartender” both fall in line with the aforementioned “Two Step”, as well. When you consider that Matthews has an endless amount of depth to his catalogue, it’s become redundant to hear these songs on any Matthews live release. So that’s why some of the best performances come from songs off his band’s latest, Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, or, as it should be well noted, songs that haven’t been heard live nearly as much. Though “Shake Me Like a Monkey”, “Funny the Way It Is”, and “Alligator Pie” all fall short of the incredibly high bar Matthews’s band has set on the original copies of these songs, each track is a welcome detour from the road of predictability that endlessly winds throughout most of Vegas.

Even better than the Whiskey tracks, though, are the songs that have grown into rarity status with DMB. “Grace Is Gone” will forever be a beautifully sad track, and the take on it here is a swift reminder of how good of a songwriter Matthews can be. “Some Devil” remains creepy, even when it's preceded by a pretty uneventful version of “Crush”, and “Save Me” is an utter lost gem of a song that usually becomes forgotten considering its only home has been on Matthews’s only solo disc.

But not even the spots of greatness could justify releasing an entire two-disc set filled with watered-down acoustic takes on songs that normally benefit from a backing band that's become one of the best in the pop music world. So why, Dave, why? Why put out these records that neither advance nor expand your otherwise sometimes-perfect little pop songs? Or, considering the plight of Vegas, maybe the following question is best: How long until you put out one of these with the rest of your band?

5

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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