This two-DVD set presents the subdudes in conversation and playing around the living room (disc one); and in concert at the Ram’s Head in Annapolis, Maryland (disc two). Since the footage of that show includes too-many-to-count moments when the camera’s out of focus and inexplicable, hand-held, swift pans to nowhere, it’s pretty hard to pay attention to the music. With multiple cameras and an editing room, there’s simply no excuse.
Better is the disc of domestic subdudes. Fans won’t find many revelations in the interviews, but the personal warmth that people associate with the band comes through when Tommy Malone, John Magnie and Steve Amedée talk. They don’t hurry, they don’t perform, and they don’t dress old stories up to make them more than they were. You have reason to believe their answers are honest—another quality associated with their music. They play a number of songs from their latest album, Street Symphony, and not surprisingly, nothing’s lost in the acoustic presentation, though not that much is gained, either. In the liner notes, executive producer Bob Hughes says, “the subdudes reach another level when performing live,” and he’s right. There are elements in their voices that are present live that never fully make it to their recordings; they’re warmer and fuller. Live and Acoustic says those elements similarly don’t survive the filming process either, which means that the performances reflect the band well, but not as well as being in the room when the DVD was shot.
The band’s fundamental likeability shines through, though, and the fun of friends hanging out together appears in subtle ways. There might not be much news in Live and Acoustic, but the acoustic disc successfully gives you the band you’ve known and loved—not necessarily more, but certainly not less.