Soulive's Bowlive DVD captures the jazz trio in all their glory‚ as they cook in fiery fashion on their own‚ then collaborate with a stunning diversity of guest musicians. In either mode‚ Soulive are so perfectly comfortable in their element inside their hometown venue‚ even the clumsy design of the DVD features (or lack thereof) can't undermine the impact of the performances.
Soulive's been willing and courageous enough to regularly stage runs of shows in their hometown at the Brooklyn Bowl (this year the residency lasted ten nights) and Bowlive contains some of fruits borne of the multiple collaborations that distinguish those shows. As a concert video on its own terms‚ it is near spectacular in bringing the sensation of "being there" to the viewer‚ there being on and around the stage as the band plays in its various configurations. Close-ups front side and behind are the perspectives of the various musicians including the band and combined with the exquisite sound -- mixed and mastered by drummer Alan Evans himself -- it is the in concert recording Soulive was due to release.
It's a drawback of no small proportion‚ however‚ that the DVD options are restricted to see and hear the interviews that set the stage for and frame the special occasion(s): the footage with the band and assorted guests overlays the performance footage and it's not available as a separate option on the menu or even switching the feature on and off via remote control.
Despite the resulting lack of continuity that would preserve the flow of performances or‚ alternately‚ make it possible to follow on from the concise introduction of this Soulive tradition offered at the outset of the disc‚ this ends up being a largely thrilling document of the event(s).
The Shady Horns complement the fundamental sound of the trio expanding at the very same time they render it earthier. On "Born Under A Bad Sign‚" Gov't Mule/Allmans guitarist-vocalist Warren Haynes brings guts in both his singing and lead guitar playing‚ besides ushering Eric Krasno into an earthy realm he rarely inhabits. Similarly‚ Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi bring an airy fluidity to their performance on "Soul Serenade‚" a rarified atmosphere Soulive usually eschews. Ivan Neville‚ of course‚ fits right in with his keyboards and voice and why not? He has toured in the past as an integral part of the band.
Ever so slightly hit and miss in terms of the quality of its performances (Nigel Hall is overbearing no matter whether he appears singing or playing) as well as the means of absorbing the DVD experience‚ Soulive Bowlive nevertheless comes close to creating an intense experience commensurate with the band's own superior level of live performance.