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Published: 2010/02/22
by B.D. Manning

Blues Traveler - Thinnest of Air

Music Link Productions

From the Film Vaults: [DVD Editor’s Note: From time to time, we will feature a DVD release from the past, and give it a fresh perspective. In this edition, we look at an old favorite of ours from the Wetlands Preserve era and beyond.]

Performed six and a half years ago on the annual celebration of our nation’s birth, and taking place at one of the most beautiful venues in the country at which to experience live music, Thinnest of Air is a powerful piece that offers something for everyone. The set-list contains gems reaching as far back as the band’s self-titled debut album in 1990, all the way up through Truth Be Told, their soon-to-be released studio album at that time.

Featured in the performance that night were some radio hits, deep cuts, some sway-along ballads and some face-melting jams. Just a couple of songs in, viewers are treated to a sit-in by Ziggy Marley, singing with the band as they offer a properly respectful and appreciative cover of his late father’s “No Woman, No Cry.” Included on the first disc is a look at all of them working out the number backstage beforehand as Ziggy passes some sacrament back to John. Appreciation for the natural green is one of the prevalent themes running through the “behind-the-scenes” footage interspersed between tracks on this double-disc set.

Filmed a few years after the untimely passing of the band’s original bass player Bobby Sheehan, the line-up this evening consisted of (then) new bassist Tad Kinchla, younger brother of long-time guitar player Chan Kinchla, as well as Brendan Hill on drums and Ben Wilson on keyboards. But front-man, singer and harmonica player extraordinaire John Popper is the focus of the lion’s share of the off-stage moments that are presented on this release. We see him being awakened in his hotel room bed by girlfriend Delana, waxing philosophical while building himself a plate at the catering table, and cutting up with band mates on the tour bus. In each of these various scenarios, along with his quirky humor and irreverent attitude, Mr. Popper is accompanied by his herbal muse.

And in addition to the insightful footage of their fearless leader, we are also given a view of Tad and Ben visiting a local salon for a mani/pedi pampering. As ‘Metro’ and diva-spoiled as that sounds (and appears), don’t let it lead you to make any assumptions regarding these guys’ ability to jam, as both of them display moments of brilliance onstage throughout the show. I’ll spell out the setlist in a moment, but I must say, I don’t feel a need to give a play-by-play account of which song I thought rocked the hardest, or at what point I thought each of the players shined the brightest. Suffice it to say, they all demonstrated high levels of proficiency on their respective tools of the trade, and as a unit they were locked in as one all night. If you are already familiar with Blues Traveler’s sound, then you know what a powerhouse they can be live, and this release is as fine an example of their groove skills as you’re likely to find. And if you only know of this band what you’ve heard from their radio and MTV hits, I’d recommend this video as an impressive and entertaining revelation of what else they are capable.

Whenever I see these guys play, they always leave me with the sense that they really, really enjoy doing what they’ve been blessed enough to be able to do together for the last twenty years now. Along those lines, one of the more self-aware and light-hearted moments on this release is a clip compilation of several different groups of audience members engaging in a fun and buzzed up, karaoke style sing-along to The Mountains Win Again. I found myself joining in. Watch Thinnest of Air with an open mind and a joyful spirit and you could too.

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