When the Dave Matthews Band announced earlier this year that it would take a break in 2011 – meaning no summer tour – that sound you heard was the collective wail of every concert promoter who has made millions off the band and every thirtysomething who has dutifully scheduled summer vacations around DMB’s itinerary for the past 20 years.
As one of the few road guarantees – partially due to the band’s ability/decision to keep ticket prices comparatively low – DMB’s absence next year will put a serious gash in concert revenue.
That said…so what? The band is one of the most relentless and dependable in the industry, so give it – literally – a break.
This brief fall arena tour, which winds down with a pair of shows in DMB’s hometown of Charlottesville, Va., and then ends with four shows in Matthews’ current home base, Seattle, is a fitting goodbye-for-now.
It isn’t a show packed with hits – which some in the Philips Arena crowd Tuesday night might have preferred – but, instead, a valentine to the loyal followers who memorize every album cut and rarity.
It’s also a comprehensive review of DMB’s career thus far, touching on tracks from 1994’s major label debut, “Under the Table and Dreaming” (“Rhyme & Reason”); Matthews’ 2003 solo album, “Some Devil” (“Stay or Leave”); and the current “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King,” which was represented by six tunes at this show.
Also refreshing is that despite the enormous wealth and fame, Matthews and Co. haven’t relinquished some of their endearing traits.
They arrived on the Philips stage as unassuming as a group of roadies, walking down a hallway in plain view of the crowd and then meandering around the stage for several minutes, silently greeting the front rows before drummer Carter Beauford kicked in with “Spaceman.”
Matthews still doles out those heavy-lidded Cheshire Cat grins and splashes of his quirky humor (“Y’all remember to take your vitamins!” he mock-drawled, before rambling on with some more non-linear Dave-isms). And after reaching up for his falsetto on “Seven,” he engaged in one of his woozy scarecrow dances while guitarist Tim Reynolds added some menacing licks to the song.
While the band’s live musicianship is always admirable, it couldn’t rise above the incoherent “Pig,” a muddle of a song best left on the album it came from – 1998’s “Before These Crowded Streets,” which received more deserving nods later in the set with “Pantala Naga Pampa” and “Rapunzel.”
On the flip side, “Grey Street” seared with its punch of brass and snare drum and the underrated “Funny the Way It Is” packed some tight melodic funk in between its gliding melody and rock-riffing bridge.
It isn’t too often that you see a drum solo accompanied by flute, but, then again, there aren’t too many drummers whose solos won’t send you racing for the beer line.
Beauford is one of the most captivating rock drummers still playing, mostly because when soloing, his technique concentrates on rhythm and patterns rather than Neanderthal pummeling.
That technique served as the perfect entry to “Say Goodbye.”
The adoring vibe and connective spirit that always pervades a DMB show was evident during a spirited face-off between fiddler Boyd Tinsley and Matthews during “Funny,” with bassist Stefan Lessard bobbing and weaving nearby, and again as soon as Matthews plucked the first acoustic notes of “Everyday.”
With zero prompting, the crowd launched into the lyrics of the song, which has been Dylan-ized into an unrecognizable cousin to its recorded form. But this live version – part hoedown, part world beat shuffle – soared under Matthews’ impromptu vocalizing.
Yes, it’s going to be a long year for millions of fans. But unlike ephemeral pop acts, DMB has been battle tested yearly and always emerged as healthy as ever. No reason to think 2012 will be any different.
– By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene