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.
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.
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.
By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene