May 19, 2012
Gexa Energy Pavilion
Dallas, TX USA
Review by Vic Martin
Photos by Scott Witty
Dave Matthews Band
Originally, I was going to give you the typical review of a Dave Matthews Band concert. Then I thought instead of writing down the standard fair of how great the band was, or describe the various song selections played this particular evening, maybe it would be more interesting if you understood, from a true fan's point of view, what it is to be a DMB fan.
Since the turn of the century, the Dave Matthews Band has captured a huge following of loyal fans that travel from coast to coast, and all points in-between, to listen to the DMB message and dance to the music. How do I know? I am one of those happy travelers who make no bones about loving this band. Over the years, these shows have become social events where like-minded fans come together to forget about life and focus on what makes them happy. And it's not just a light beer and the smell of a funny cigarette. It's the music, it's the camaraderie. It is the feeling of just knowing you belong.
Jam bands, obviously, are only as good as the music they perform. In DMB's case, it goes beyond the talent of the individual members. It's the thought and creativity that goes into the construction of each song. It's the rare ability of the lyrics to capture the heart and soul. When focusing in on the best parts of the Dave Matthews Band, you focus squarely on the songs themselves. It's the core all else is derived from. After all, words mean nothing without the music to breathe life into them. This tight-knit unit, while dedicated to the cause, also manages to create their own musical universe within the tunes as well. It's quite remarkable when you think about it.
There are several adjectives many of us citizens in the DMB world use to describe the atmosphere we breathe in with reckless abandon when it comes to this band. True, genuine, honest, religious, faith, inspiration, family, peace, anger, humility and timeless are just some of the emotions many of us experience as we breathlessly let the sounds of the group take us away. This euphoria is the reason we all travel from sea to shining sea to bathe in the radiant glow this music showers upon us.
In the past, the one thing I have noticed about DMB is their humility on and off stage. Obviously, Dave is the center piece from which every thing else revolves. However, he will be the first to tell you that his fellow band mates are just as critical to the DMB experience, if not more. From the early years until now, the songs have become riveting examples of anger, happiness, frustration and contempt. Follow this group long enough and you come to understand where those emotions come from.
In short, DMB plays from the heart, not for hits. Although tonight, for example at the Gexa Energy Pavilion in Dallas, instead of playing radio fare like "Ants Marching" and "What Would You Say" from their multi-platinum debut, the band opted to perform "Dancing Nancies" and "Jimi Thing". The casual fans may have walked away disappointed by this development however the true believers didn't miss a beat. Whether by mistake or design, Dave failed to include his Top Ten hit, "Crash into Me" in the evening program. However the jamming "Two Step" & cover of Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" made for a great encore. Again, if you are attending a Dave Matthews show hoping to hear the familiar tunes from the radio, you may want to open your mind and listen to the rest of his albums.
Attitude is what makes DMB special to those of us who don't think twice about getting into a car, or an airplane, to catch our heroes in action. We jump at the opportunities the tours provide us to happily get lost - within ourselves and the music. For instance, the highs and lows of drummer Carter Beauford and bassist Stefan Lessard combine to emit, coupled with the different melodies that come from the strings of Boyd Tinsley's violin, can take you on a magical personal journey were feelings of sorrow, heartbreak and happiness often occur.
Everyone attending a Dave Matthews concert has their favorite moments from a past show they love to talk about. Those memories, and the new ones every subsequent tour creates, keeps the rabid fan base coming back for more year in and year out. You can rest assure there's going to be a surprise or two whenever you attend a show. Another thing that's interesting to remember is this. Once you've become ensconced in the DMB family, you really have no reason to ever leave it.
One year, Bela Fleck's saxophonist Jeff Coffin filled in for Leroi Moore, who had injured himself in an ATV accident. The tour, as they say, had to go on, and Coffin was recruited to fill in. He hasn't missed a tour since while still keeping his other commitments. And then there's incomparable Tim Reynolds on guitar. This musician has been somewhat of an unofficial sixth member of the group since its inception. He was instrumental in helping create the DMB sound the first three albums before stepping away to concentrate on his own music. No matter how far he drifted away, Dave Matthews was always able to reel him back into the fold in some capacity. The multi-instrumentalist finally relented and accepted his rightful place as lead guitarist a few years ago. It was obvious watching him perform on stage how his presence brings something special to the live shows. There's no doubt Dave is quite happy he's there beside him as well.
The base line is laid down by Stefan Lessard, who had a nifty solo during the band's encore. He has steadily grown into his own as a musical force within the band, while creatively driving the group's music. His intros and styles are funky and masterful at the same time. Although Dave and Tim are more visible, Stefan's presence behind them makes you feel like a kid again.
Rashawn Ross is also a one of those invaluable parts of the DMB machine you rarely see, but you most definitely hear. His trumpet helps propel the arrangements and melodies the horn section performs in conjunction the other instruments on stage. His instrument, along with the rest of the brass ensemble, seamlessly blends itself in with the guitars giving the music a real vibe rarely seen in music today.
The man with the golf gloves banging the skins is drummer Carter Beauford. You rarely see him without a smile on his face. His infectious grin and skillful handling of the drums drives not on the music, but the band as well. And when the song calls for it, Beauford can play those soft and sweet jazz overtones, or drum along with a Caribbean beat. As a founding member of DMB, Carter's influence is deeply felt on stage and in the music.
Another dimension DMB fans anticipate are the unannounced special guests that often walk out on stage during the set. Santana, Warren Haynes, Greg Allman, Tom Morello, Joe Lawler, Bela Fleck and Victor Wooten are just a few of the guests that have participated in DMB jams. Another unique quality borrowed from the Grateful Dead, and embraced by the band itself, is the live recordings that inevitably someone makes at a Dave Matthews show. The reason is quite simple. No two concerts are ever the same. The live recordings reinforce the DMB live experience. The songs remain the same, but they are treated differently every time they pop up in a set. You can expect to hear your favorites, as well as deep cuts, every time the band steps on stage.
Dave Matthews doesn't seem to be slowing down for anyone. Picking up the pieces and finishing Big Whiskey & the GrooGux King after the loss of a close friend, Leroi Moore, Jeff Coffin stepped in to fill the void. Not only did the band finish the album, they honored their fallen comrade as well. As a poet and voice for his generation, Dave clearly understands how to handle the hurdles, triumphs and losses that come with being a leader. He is deeply aware of his fans, and the level of importance DMB has been to their lives.
As for the review of this second show of the band's summer tour, it was a great. Glad I was here, and can't wait to see some more. In fact, I'm making plans to fly out to Cincinnati right now to soak in the light that radiates from this truly extraordinary band.
You Might Die Trying
Why I Am
If I had it All
Shake Me like a Monkey
Out of My Hands
So Damn Lucky
All Along the Watchtower