The Starting Line somehow developed one hell of a cult following in their nearly decade-long run. Whether their recent return will blossom into anything seriously full-time is up for debate (and fans of frontman Kenny -- now "Kenneth" -- Vasoli's more esoteric and experimental project, Person L, may hope TSL remains on the backburner). But if there was ever a time for the Starting Line to get the live treatment on disc -- this CD/DVD set providing a full live set in both audio and video -- at least it was now, with their future in doubt and a fairly sizable discography to pull material from.
The resulting 19-song set here, then, offers a pleasing mix of their three LPs -- you know, if you were a fan in the first place. That includes the splendidly mathy "Inspired by the $," the glimpses of EpiFat influence in "Greg's Last Day" (the lone track off 2001's With Hopes of Starting Over EP), as well as those signature, sentimental guitars, which work best in older cuts like "Almost There, Going Nowhere" and "This Ride." You can even hear hints of the throwback, brash rock'n'roll vibes that would pervade Person L material later on when the band play the somewhat less well-received "Direction." But all 19 songs are played with fair aplomb and are recorded crisply, leaving little left to be desired.
There's very little banter from Vasoli here, though. In fact, there's really no wisdom he provides between songs. While some insight into any of these various songs would have been nice considering the band's well-publicized label troubles -- they named their second LP Based on a True Story -- or Vasoli's fond love for the herb, they do explain those label woes at depth in the solid documentary included on the DVD. This is clearly not that kind of show, anyway; some spontaneity would have been nice, but this is otherwise a pretty consistent, excited and rehearsed live show in a pretty big venue with a huge, seething crowd -- awkward push-pits, pogo-ing and all -- foaming at every lyric and note. I think very few of these fans cared too much about what some of these songs were actually about, anyway. There's a moment during "Up and Go" when the camera pans to some kids in the front looking directly into the lens and singing along, and it's sooooo cheesy. I know this is the Starting Line we're talking about here, but still. It's cuter when a group of dudes -- some band friends and show/tourmates, you gotta guess -- come out to contribute some vocals for "Something Left to Give," which really deadens the crowd for a solid three or four minutes.
Vasoli's really only spending time between songs thanking the crowd for being there and all. The most interesting things he says are actually his mosh encouragements (or cautions), when you don't know whether to laugh or groan: "Circle pit!" he exclaims before the double-time moment in "Greg's Last Day"; "The mosh pit might be unnecessarily big for this one, but we'll give it a shot," he resigns before "The Drama Summer"; "This is the spread-it-out part...and when you guys come back in...circle pit!!" ("Surprise, Surprise"); "Aw, make it big!" is his uncomfortable double entendre prior to set-closing fan favorite "Best of Me."
But you can't really deny that Vaosli and his bandmates are pretty enthusiastic from the start; you can't get a song or two in before the vocalist/guitarist's forehead is already glistening with sweat. It's impressive he keeps up decent energy for the next hour and change.
The aforementioned documentary that comes on the DVD is a fairly decent look into the band's history, intercut with a chronological timeline of their last full tour together. It would've been nice to get some of their band friends or tourmates over the years on the camera, but you do get a few family members and various management friends to give their insight on what's happened over the band's course.
Overall, it's a pretty solid live release the Starting Line have turned out here for fans. It's the kind of expansive, sizable package that's likely to appeal to fairly serious fans only, but could at least give them some closure, all the same.
The Drama Summer (live)