In their football jerseys and T-shirts, the current touring lineup for the Dave Matthews Band looked more like a bunch of weekend warriors than a collective of world class musicians. Appearing fit, rested and ready for anything, the super group, which formed in 1993, played to a packed crowd at Aaron’s Amphitheatre Tuesday night, May 22.
They began an extensive summer tour last weekend that will end at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in September and have plans to release their eighth studio album later this year with longtime collaborator Steve Lillywhite as skipper.
Opening the show with the tender and emotional ballad “Sweet,” Matthews kept a level of quiet reserve for about the first hour of the performance meandering into “Grace is Gone” and “Save Me.” There was no Steve Martin-esque banter and very little of the frontman’s trademark pigeon-toed twist. The crowd, many who had been tailgaiting in the parking lot hours prior, was respectful and reverent but you could tell they wanted more — and that the liquor was taking its toll.
By the time they launched into the fiery track “Don’t Drink the Water,” the audience of 16,000 loyal fans was growing pretty restless. The combination of a stellar light show designed by Fenton Williams, drummer Carter Beauford’s ever-present positive attitude and Matthews’ grindhouse shriek helped deliver the goods. Serving up crowd favorite “Jimi Thing” sealed the deal and the evening soon evolved into a sing-along.
The undeniably charismatic Matthews peered into the front rows and said, “You look good tonight, and I’m not saying that because I feel like I have to. I really mean it.”
With those words, he’d continue the show with putty in his hands. “You and Me” provided the requisite romance for the evening as couples slow danced and serenaded one another.
“I like being in Atlanta because it’s sort of like home,” said Matthews. “I married a Georgia peach, but she wouldn’t really like me calling her a peach. She’s a tough one.”
Matthews’ wife, Ashley Harper, grew up in Atlanta. They have three children, and her parents were even on hand for the evening.
Closing the two-and-half-hour set with frat anthem “Ants Marching” allowed violin player Boyd Tinsley to strut and set everyone up for a nice, solid encore that lasted another twenty minutes or so. Lead guitarist Tim Reynolds was stellar, as always and Jeff Coffin on saxophone and Rashawn Ross on trumpet filled the gap left by the dearly departed LeRoi Moore. Stefan Lessard on bass is the perfect first baseman and anchorman.
Elated and filled with a “that just happened!” attitude, everyone apparently went home happy and hopeful for the road warriors’ return.
You Might Die Trying
Grace Is Gone
Shake Me Like a Monkey
Don’t Drink the Water
Out Of My Hands
You and Me
Funny the Way It Is
Pantala Naga Pampa