The clarity is amazing - in front of a noisy audience with 6 musicians making as much of a racket as they can (such as at the end of "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" or the subway-inspired noises in "Via Chicago,") every noise and every instrument is perfectly clear. For people who really enjoy listening closely, this is a real treat. (Jazz guitarist Nels Cline's fascinating contributions are audible in the left channel, Pat Sansone's guitar and keyboard work are in the right, and Jeff Tweedy's guitar is just slightly right of center while the rest of the band pans out between the three of them.)
It's so good I have to carry it around with me, so I can look at the lovingly designed (but slightly minimal) artwork, a hallmark of Nonesuch-label projects. I just can't commit it to simple mp3 files in my Ipod just yet - I'm not ready to give up on the tangible goods. It all, as a whole, needs time to soak in before I can file it away in the collection. If only every live album could be this lovingly prepared. Or every studio album, for that matter.
(The only downside to the whole thing is not getting the accompanying DVD that had been planned and filmed, but has since been scrapped by Tweedy as not "giving a sense of the audience, a sense of the time and place." It's a real shame not getting to see this band performing this material, but I have no doubt in the future we'll get some live video from them.)
Visit me at knownjohnson.com