December 9, 2012
Arena at Gwinnett Center
Duluth, GA USA
Review by Chris Eason
Photos by Chris Eason
Dave Matthews Band
Taking Their Audience on a Musical Adventure
I'll say this for Dave Matthews and the group of close friends he performs with on stage. They love to take their audiences on a musical adventure. This evening at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia was no exception. Making their second appearance in the Atlanta area over the past six months, DMB was playing one of the final shows of their fall tour supporting the recently released studio recording, Away from the World.
There are two things Matthews has done brilliantly over the years to make his bi-annual tours must-see shows. The first is to constantly change up the set lists each night the band performs. The second is to introduce rising stars in the music world as their opening acts. This evening, one of the bright lights of 2012, The Lumineers, was brought on board to light a fire under this sold-out audience to prepare them for the main event. Judging by the crowd's reaction to their 40-minute set, this trio from Denver, Colorado did a magnificent job with what they were charged to do.
This acoustic folk-rock act consists of Wesley Schultz on guitar and lead vocals; Jeremiah Fraites on drums, percussion, mandolin and vocals, and Neyla Pekarek on cello, mandolin, piano, and vocals. Their refreshing folksy rock sound, which landed them two Grammy nominations, was spearheaded by their infectious hit single, "Ho Hey". The future is indeed bright for this trio of talented musicians as they head in to 2013.
Selecting The Lumineers to open several of their winter shows was an excellent example of what makes a DMB show so special. Not only are the set lists changed nightly to keep the music fresh and exciting for the band and audience, the choices DMB makes when it comes to taking acts on the road with them is always exciting. This past year alone, the group has shared the stage with Fitz and the Tantrums, Allen Stone, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes , the Avett Brothers, Delta Spirit and Gary Clark Jr. Showcasing exceptional talent before the band itself hits the stage not only puts the pressure on Dave & Co. to perform at their optimum best, it also gives his appreciative audiences the chance to experience exciting new talent before they explode into the mainstream.
As I mentioned earlier, DMB doesn't play the same show twice. Tonight, they performed eight of the eleven tracks off the new album. Interestingly enough, when they performed at Aaron's Amphitheater this past May, they performed two songs off the upcoming new album, "Gaucho" and "Sweet", that didn't make it onto this evening's play-list. "Mercy" was the only repeat offender for both shows. The 24- song set list also featured several selections off 2009's Big Whiskey album as well as a number of cover tunes, including the Bob Dylan classic, "All Along the Watchtower", with country star Zac Brown making a pleasantly surprising guest appearance.
Needless to say, this band lives and breathes the road, which is why they are careful to change up the music nightly. It also allows the musicians on stage to improvise within the songs, thus keeping the songs fresh and interesting. It also doesn't hurt that DMB allows audience members to record most of their live shows. The Internet may have transformed the way many established acts do their business today, but not Dave Matthews. In fact, in order to get its rabid fan base geared up for the fall tour behind the new album, the group streamed Away from the World for free before its official release. Some may call that hubris, Matthews considers it a thank you to the fans for sticking by them all these years.
There's no doubt that Dave Matthews' fans can be a tough bunch to please. That's why curve balls, like performing the Daniel Lanois cover, "Still Water" and tonight's final encore, "Two Step", were thrown out to catch the faithful off guard. For those paying close attention to the Aaron Amphitheater set list in comparison to tonight, they noticed several songs were repeat offenders this evening.
If you ask a Dave Matthews fan what it is they really admire about the band, they'll tell you it's the dependability you get from the group's music. These crowds know the set lists by heart because they follow the band that closely. If you're a casual fan wanting to hear "Crash into Me", "The Space Between" or "Satellite" you were left out in the cold. The only nod to a radio hit DMB acknowledged this evening was "What Would You Say."
Again, as any DMB fan will tell you, the foundation that built this band was not based on radio hits, big name stars appearing on albums or music videos. Two core principles - a consistent sound and an ever changing stage product - have kept the 'ants marching' in step with this band going on two decades now. Watching the reaction tonight as the crowd sang and danced to everything the band threw at them, I'd say DMB accomplished its stated mission for everyone to have fun, and then some.