Dave Matthews Band: Revisited

Dave Matthews Band
Shoreline Amphitheater
Mountain View, CA
August 28, 2010

Dave Matthews Band: Revisited

I have a well-known reputation for bad-mouthing the Dave Matthews Band even though I always had a guilty suspicion that part of it was simply a reflex reaction to all the hype regarding his live performances. Of course, after seeing DMB live, I still feel that part of my resistance to hopping on the DMB bandwagon is justified. He is a crappy songwriter, that's for sure.

A small sample of his lyrics:
“Hike up your skirt a little more/ and show the world to me” Crash

“Candyman teasing the thoughts of a/ Sweet tooth tortured by the weight loss Programs/ cutting the corners” Ants Marching

“Sometimes I walk there/ Well yes God knows sometimes I take a bus there/ shouldn't care” Jimi Thing

“If you a doggie on a chain/ Don't bite the mailman/ What would you say” What Would You Say

“We were walking / Just the other day/ It was so hot outside/ You could fry an egg” Stay (Wasting Time)

And these are some of DMB’s biggest and most popular hits. So, case closed. Well, OK, I have to admit some grudging respect after having been to The Show.

In some respects, any band that has played together for 20 years like DMB should be able to perform and there’s no doubt that the band is a group of highly professional musicians with great understanding- which is necessary given the constant time signature shifts and sharp angular chords and key changes in many of the songs. While many have compared DMB to the Grateful Dead, in terms of their penchant for jamming and letting the song choose its own path, that's only partly true. I think DMB has much more in common with the musical line that led to jazz/rock combos like Weather Report, Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock - though DMB is certainly more rock-oriented than those outfits- basically Herbie Hancock with a syncopated funk backbeat and a strumming guitar. Still, when I was listening at the Shoreline show, I was reminded much more of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew than Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Wilson Pickett or other traditional blues artists that the Grateful Dead was more directly influenced by. Nevertheless, DMB are certainly the descendants of a unique American musical tradition that I can't help but admire because it is clear that there is thought and creativity in the music (just not the lyrics).

The Saturday Show at Shoreline started a little slow. The first couple numbers were pretty forgettable but as the night wore on, the band warmed up. Strangely, the light-show also got better as the night went on, dark screens came to life and the lighting effects increased on later songs. Another thing that frequently bothered me about DMB recordings is his nasally voice but that quality was almost completely absent from his live voice. So, though I had feared a lackluster, unenjoyable performance, I was impressed and by the time DMB played a fantastic version of Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower to end the show, I understood the crowd's enthusiasm even if it is unlikely that I will foray down this path again.

Other highlights of the night included, One Sweet World, Write A Song, a chorus of For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield, and Cornbread.

corrected from earlier version

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but what? This review is a little off..for one, Write A Song did not include a verse from For What It's Worth, that was Jimi Thing. Also, how can you say the beginning performances were slow or forgettable? I can maybe understand the second song, Seek Up, as being described as slow or jammy but how can you describe the opener, The Last Stop, as slow and forgettable? That song is a powerhouse. Glad you enjoyed most of the other performances, though.