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The Dave Matthews Band lights up Gwinnett

There was no shortage of groovy lighting at DMB's show. Photo: Robb D. Cohen/www.robbsphotos.com.

There was no shortage of groovy lighting at DMB's show. Photo: Robb D. Cohen/www.robbsphotos.com.

There’s summer DMB and winter DMB.

Summer DMB calls sheds home for a few months, outdoor venues where fans can sprawl on the grass, tailgate in the parking lot and wear their khaki shorts with pride.

Winter DMB takes on a more musically serious tone – though Dave Matthews, the CEO of the Dave Matthews Band is a perennial goofball – and, at least in Atlanta, plays in venues that are more intimate, providing a crisp, corralled sound as the band rolls through its musical calisthenics.

On Tuesday, DMB played to a typically adoring, typically sold-out throng at The Arena at Gwinnett Center and even brought a special Atlanta-centric guest on stage toward the set’s end.

“How very nice to be here in ‘Doe-luth’…adjacent to Atlanta,” Matthews said with a joking touch. “I got people down here,” he continued in a humorous drawl, a line that he would repeat for effect throughout the 2 1/2-hour show.

These concerts aren’t built for the casual fan hoping to hear “Ants Marching” or “Satellite” (though the band does throw them in sometimes). It wasn’t until seven songs into the show that “Don’t Drink the Water,” its insinuating groove replaced by menacing rock guitar squeals and Matthews’ amped vocals – appeared and several later for a tight, crisp “What Would You Say,” complete with extended sax solo and a fiddle workout from Boyd Tinsley.

If only Dave Matthews would put some effort into his singing.  Photo: Robb D. Cohen/www.robbsphotos.com.

If only Dave Matthews would put some passion into his singing. Photo: Robb D. Cohen/www.robbsphotos.com.

The majority of the show focused – as it should – on DMB’s excellent current album, “Away From the World,” with eight of its 11 songs making the live cut.

The interlocking triangles that hung behind the stage turned into much-needed video screens for “Belly Belly Nice,” one of the best songs on “Away” that first grabs your gut, then tumbles into a sweet chorus.

By following it with the also-new “Snow Outside,” the band proved its always-impressive musical dexterity, switching from twitchy funk to languid jazz-pop within minutes. While Matthews’ voice is an acquired taste, it was especially appealing when he stayed soft and low and quietly broke through the gauzy backdrop of “Snow” as the song climbed to a frenzy of horns and electric guitar (courtesy of Tim Reynolds).

DMB has never been about production or effects, but the band employs a stellar lighting team. Whether zooming in on Matthews at the start of “Rooftop,” spinning in a frenzy for “Seven” as Matthews did his knock-kneed shuffle dance around Reynolds or shooting shards of red beams to introduce “Eh Hee,” the visual aspects of the show only elevated the music.

Not that anyone needed visuals once the band – anchored, as always, by Carter Beauford, one of the best modern drummers on the planet, and bassist Stefan Lessard – introduced its frequent cover of “All Along the Watchtower.” Only this time it came equipped with guest Zac Brown to add to the epic scope that DMB brings to the song (it’s also not a stretch for this team, as Brown joined DMB on “Watchtower” throughout the summer of 2010, when ZBB opened for DMB at some stadium shows).

Those who like their DMB from the early years must have thrilled at the sounds of “Two Step” (from 1996’s “Crash” album) during the encore, further proving that no matter what the season, few bands not on the nostalgia track can boast a catalog as ripe as theirs.

2013 should be good to The Lumineers.  Photo: Robb D. Cohen/www.robbsphotos.com.

2013 should be good to The Lumineers. Photo: Robb D. Cohen/www.robbsphotos.com.

Opening the concert was super-hot Denver folk-pop trio The Lumineers, who last week learned they were nominated for two Grammy Awards (Best New Artist and Best Americana Album for their self-titled debut).

While known for their lulling “Ho Hey,” the threesome of singer/guitarist Wesley Schultz, percussionist/mandolin player Jeremiah Fraites and celloist Neyla Pekarek (aided by a pianist and bassist onstage) demonstrated that they have plenty more creamy tunes where that one came from.

From the sweet, untitled new duet between Schultz and Pekarek to “Stubborn Love” to “Flapper Girl,” The Lumineers proved not only that they make ideal Sunday brunch music, but that they know their way around a solid melody.

Don’t expect to see them as an opening act for long.

For more photos from Tuesday’s show, check out our gallery.

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene

17 comments Add your comment

JMiller

December 12th, 2012
2:31 am

GREAT CONCERT!! So much fun at Gwinnett Center!

fletch

December 12th, 2012
9:04 am

Great concert and great review!

Someone other than me

December 12th, 2012
9:11 am

Great review! One of the best reviews I’ve ever read on AJC. Pleasant surprise coming from a paper that rarely produces intelligent pieces.

Andy

December 12th, 2012
9:59 am

I’m glad I didn’t waste the money on this particular show seeing how they played most of the new CD. I’ve seen DMB countless times in years past at Lakewood, but as much as I hate to say it, from an entire CD perspective, they peaked with Busted Stuff.

That said, they put on one helluva ’summer’ show.

hmac

December 12th, 2012
10:09 am

Loved the show, but, holy cow, 45 minutes plus to get out of the parking garage and lot!. Wow, that part sucked. I’ll never let myself get directed into that garage again.

Back to the show, great energy and performance from DMB, they always put it out there.

Filter

December 12th, 2012
10:43 am

I went to the show with high expectations. Unfortunately what I was given was a virtual note for note redo of the set from the Hangout festival. The ending jams for “Two Step” and “Mercy” were identical down to the trade off progression between Reynolds and the sax in Mercy and the drum breaks in Two Step. My complaint is not that they played the same songs, that is to be expected…..but they played them in exactly the same way. Overall a major disappointment. It was like dropping money to see a Comic only to get there and hear the same jokes you saw on the HBO special.

Tom

December 12th, 2012
11:11 am

I’ve seen the Dave Matthews Band at every Atlanta-area show they’ve done since 1999 (something around 15 shows) as well as many others in other cities and states, probably around 40 or so by now. Without hesitation I can say this was one of the five worst DMB concerts I’ve attended. I haven’t felt this let down by the band since the Turner Field debacle in 2001, which they thankfully didn’t try to do again. The entire show was a bummer.

I hate to center my complaints on the setlist, but it was a huge part of the problem. Just flat-out poorly planned. Away From the World is a very mellow groove, and this is only the second tour that these songs have been played; they haven’t found their best live shape in my opinion. Maybe in future tours some of these songs will really become great live, but here they basically just sounded like someone put the CD on a hit ‘play.’ With so many of these newer, lower-key songs back-to-back, the show felt like long stretches of lifelessness punctuated by occasional forays into more successful, road-tested material. From my seats right by the side of the stage, I could see the crowd’s boredom. There’s a reason they’re still playing songs like Jimi Thing and Two Step and What Would You Say twenty years into their career: because THEY WORK LIVE.

I get it: they don’t want to play Ants Marching every night. Cool with me. And some of the newer stuff does work: Eh Hee and Cornbread are funky and dark. Squirm is the standout from Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King, the album immediately before Away From The World in DMB’s catalog. And as I discussed with my friend after the show: they don’t have to play only vintage, ‘old’ stuff; but that doesn’t mean they have to play entirely new stuff, either. There was just no synergy or flow within that setlist. It was like going to see the Rolling Stones only to have them almost completely ignore the first 30 years of their career and only play songs from “Steel Wheels” onward. Yech.

Compounding matters was the most lifeless performance I may have ever seen from this band. Sure, Carter was great as always, but Boyd Tinsley and Tim Reynolds might as well not have been onstage most of the night. Boyd’s big moment in Jimi Thing (late in the show anyway) came to what felt like a screeching halt instead of a natural end. Tim Reynolds is a genius guitarist, and I’ve loved his addition to the full touring band the last four years or so—but he was almost a complete nonentity here. It seemed one of his pedals malfunctioned in Jimi Thing and his attempt to join the proceedings on Two Step was a flat-out disaster at first.

There was more juice in the second half of the show than the first, and the appearance from Zak Brown gave All Along the Watchtower a little celebrity, even though I don’t give a flying leap about the Zak Brown Band.

But all in all—and I never thought I’d say this about DMB—if I’d known this was how the night was going to shake out, I probably would’ve passed.

Jon

December 12th, 2012
11:14 am

Filter, I’m sure DMB must’ve somehow forgotten you were at Hangout and then didn’t get your voice message that you would be at this show as well. Had they done their research, maybe the trade-off progression would’ve been done to your liking.

GTPHISH

December 12th, 2012
12:00 pm

Good review! I have never seen DMB but have always respected their band.

Benita Michelle Wheeler

December 12th, 2012
1:32 pm

It sounds like a party

Bummed

December 12th, 2012
2:19 pm

I knew when they came out with Sperm and followed up with 3 or 4 songs I don’t care about it was gonna be a ‘different’ show. Pretty flat, boys. But thanks for coming . . . .

jolie

December 12th, 2012
6:12 pm

I was so excited to see this show, but like many reviewers here I found myself “bored” with the play list. Too many new songs and very little of the old. DMB has been a favorite of mind for almost 20 years I often find myself working out with many of his old staples and I even love some of the catchy ones like “dive in”, “funny the way it is” and “sweet”. But when the first 5 songs or 40 minutes of the show are lifeless “b sides fillers” ( no pun intended), I knew it was going to be somewhat of a disappointing night. As any DMB concert, there were some great moments like already mentioned but it just seemed like Dave and the band were just going through the motions. I think the boys can do better and it all comes down to song selection. I might have to pass the next time around. The Luminaries on the other hand were absolutely awesome. Catch them next time they come to town. A must!

Scott Shelar

December 13th, 2012
7:33 am

I love the Dave Matthews Band, BUT this was the worst show I’ve seen since Turner Field. I did not like the set list, and I agree that Boyd and Timmy were almost not even there. The whole band just seemed flat. I agree with other posts. They haven’t yet figured out how to play the new stuff live. I guess it’s like his new wine project. It takes time. I’m patient and I can work through this with the band, but give me more of the old stuff along the way. I can’t wait till they come back to Lakewood in the Summer. The Lakewood shows are ALWAYS great! I’m ready to get this bad taste out of my mouth. Sorry to be so negative. I really do LOVE DMB!

Emily

December 13th, 2012
9:45 am

Awesome show. I have played the heck out of the new CD since it came out, and LOVE it. I’ve been a fan of DMB for 20 years, but was glad to hear a bunch of the new songs, they’re GREAT and Dave’s totally awesome. Drove from Memphis to hear this concert, and was totally worth it. The entire arena seemed fired up and totally loving the show, so I’m surprised by the negative reviews.

Butch

December 13th, 2012
10:51 am

Thought it was a great show and was glad that they didn’t play the same songs like they normally do. Not that I don’t enjoy the old stuff but it’s good to hear different things for once. That stuff gets me coming back. Thought the solos were awesome and really had a great time. The crowd was really fired up and the lights which I don’t really care about were pretty cool too.

Dan Baker

December 13th, 2012
4:14 pm

As a casual fan of Dave Matthews Band and a first-timer at one of its concerts, I have no way of comparing this to other shows. I certainly enjoyed the music (even if the songs were unfamiliar), but the show was too long and left even the hard-core fans ready for it to end. In fact, quite a number left before the main set and three-song encore. I sensed that a lot of new material was played and received only lukewarmly by the fans. Cut three or four of the new songs and replace them with familiar tunes, and you have a better concert. The dead space between songs seemed to reflect a lack of organization and only added to the length of the show, which could have been cut by 30 minutes. The musicianship was excellent and the light show was superb, but overall the concert failed to meet my expectations.

Stephen

December 14th, 2012
5:59 pm

Came down from South Carolina to see the show. I couldn’t disagree more with some of the reviews posted in the comments. Every song was very well played and the setlist flowed smoothly in my opinion.

This was my 33rd time seeing DMB and I stopped trying to compare shows and setlists long ago. The band has continued to evolve and some folks like it and some don’t. I get that. But I enjoyed the show.