Steve Earle Transcendental Blues Live

Having seen this show (Toronto's Convocation Hall, July 2000), it's obviously a treat to have it preserved with excellent sound and visuals. However, since Earle released Jerusalem last year, that album's fiery responses to post-9/11 America have made the material here oddly quaint. The bulk of the selections come from his then current album Transcendental Blues, and although it was overall a solid effort from Earle, it's highly disappointing that so many of the other great songs from his vast catalogue performed that night had to be sacrificed for the purpose of this DVD — only "Copperhead Road" and "Fearless Heart" made the cut. And while the Dukes — guitarist Eric "Roscoe" Ambel, bassist Kelly Looney and drummer Will Rigby — do an admirable job of boosting Earle's rockier side, the rather staid setting makes much of the performance seem uncomfortable, and certainly unrepresentative of the show Earle is capable of putting on with his band. Where's the version of Nirvana's "Breed" he was playing throughout that tour? Therefore, it's the acoustic numbers that come across best, especially the flat-out desperation of "Lonelier Than This" and the rollicking "Galway Girl." Perhaps Earle would have been better served with a documentary of his current tour, where he is undoubtedly facing a few hostile responses from American right-wingers. But obviously such a wish comes with the benefit of hindsight. For now, Earle fans will have to settle for this workmanlike performance, which is weighted far too heavily toward an unspectacular album. Extras: Promo videos for "Transcendental Blues" and "Over Yonder (Jonathan's Song)"; screensavers and web links. (E-Squared/Artemis)