Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds: Live at Radio City Music Hall Blu-ray Review

With countless catalog performances to choose from, RCA Records wisely selected a day-and-date with DVD release of Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds: Live at Radio Music City Hall to kick off their high definition home video era exclusively on Blu-ray Disc. Wisely because this is one hell of a show whose acoustics and grand stage are perfectly suited for a premier audio/video presentation.

I’ve always been a casual Dave Matthews fan and have enjoyed his big hits with his band, but like most casual fans, am unaware he’s performed acoustically for years with his longtime friend Tim Reynolds. Who is Tim Reynolds? He’s a quirky guitar soloist who loves to jam, use electronic reverb, and wouldn’t be caught dead singing. That’s part of the reason Dave and Tim are suited for one another; Dave handles all the singing and basic riffs, while Tim jumps in with more complicated chord combinations and foot pedal electronic effects.

Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds: Live at Radio City Music Hall

The pair kickoff the April 2007 concert at Radio Music City Hall with “Bartender” and immediately there’s an indescribable synergism in their play. They attack distinct chords aggressively yet sound as if they’re playing as one. Dave gives Tim the opportunity to shine in a pair of solo efforts that vicariously make my fingers hurt. He creates sound with the guitar that can’t be explained and never seems to tire over the course of a two-and-a-hour show.

Most of the songs are from Dave’s solo albums though there are some welcome wildcards tossed in, too, making for a robust and well rounded play list. In addition to Tim’s riveting jams is Neil Young’s “Down by the River,” Daniel Lanois” “Still Water” and “The Maker,” an incredibly soothing tune perfect after a long day’s work, as well as Dave’s unreleased “Corn Bread,” which is one of the few weak songs and should have stayed unreleased. Mass appeal favorites “Crush,” “Crash Into Me” and “Gravediggers” are all accounted for, though I discovered some new personal favorites in “Old Dirt Hill” and the aforementioned “The Maker.”

Dave and Tim’s performance is stunning to watch on Blu-ray Disc thanks to a whopping 9 HD cameras used for filming and a 1080p24 VC-1 encoded transfer that never buckles under the pressure of displaying the highlighted artists and dark audience. Close-up shots of Dave and Tim are pristine with spotlights showing every nick and scratch on their guitars. The background audience and stage, while slightly soft, is never affected by macro-blocking or posterization.

The real HD treat is a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 96kHz/24 bit track that is simply amazing to take in regardless of what’s on the screen. Dave and Tim’s acoustic guitars benefit immensely from lossless audio encoded at a high bit rate. Even the PCM Stereo 48kHz/24 bit track is worth cranking up well beyond what is perceived as reference level. The only fathomable means to up the quality would be to travel back in time and attend the concert in person.

RCA Records emphasis on the concert’s high definition presentation pushed the extra features onto a second disc, a strategy I wish all studios would follow. Dave and Tim’s long relationship is explored in So Damn Lucky, a 45 minute documentary presented in 1080p video and PCM 2.0 audio. Snippets are plucked from a pre-show interview with the pair atop a roof in NY, separate pre-show meetings with Dave and Tim, sound check with Dave’s nervousness over playing the piano in front of people for the first time, and various old archival footage and recordings. The only negative is an absurd amount of footage from the concert mixed in, at least 10 minutes worth, if not more. Additional interview bits and archival footage would have been more relevant. The only other extra is a 1080p 4-minute Photo Montage where various photos slowly fade in and out set to “Grace is Gone.”

Less than an hour’s worth of extras on a dedicated disc doesn’t seem efficient, but the documentary is a must-see piece and worth cutting an extra disc for to ensure Dave and Tim’s concert was presented in the high quality possible. It was, and fittingly so, as I can’t imagine Dave or Tim performing any better than they did at Radio Music City Hall. RCA Records has clearly shown they can play with the Blu-ray big boys with this stellar package, and I can’t wait to see whose performance they churn out next.

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