Dave Matthews Band - Cruzan Amphitheatre, West Palm Beach - July 20
Dave Matthews Band
Cruzan Amphitheatre, West Palm Beach
Friday, July 20
Better than: Eating a $10 hot dog and chugging $5 water while watching talentless musicians perform mostly prerecorded pop music.
Dave Matthews Band isn't just a group that made the soundtrack for popping cherries in the late '90s. Actually, it's a band of sorcerers who've harnessed the powers of the Grateful Dead to cast a love spell on thousands and thousands of bad dancers, resulting in a massive DMB cult following of poorly dressed music lovers. These improv wizards packed a very sweaty Cruzan Amphitheatre with both casual and overly dedicated fans last night for the first of two West Palm Beach shows.
About a quarter of the way through the set, DMB performed "Typical Situation," a recognizable song for someone who went to college about ten to 20 years ago. For the casual fan, it perhaps brought a nostalgic tear to the eye or revived a dorm-room make-out-sesh memory. But for the devoted, this was a huge deal. Apparently, it's really rare to hear "Typical Situation" performed live. You know why we know this? Because we scored the best Dave date ever.
Let's call our mildly ashamed friend Handrew. This was the 23rd Dave Matthews Band concert that he's attended. Yes, 23. He's not even 30. You likely haven't gotten your teeth cleaned that many times in your life. Be honest and go see your dentist. That's real commitment.
Point being, we received an education. Handrew first saw DMB at the same venue when it was called Coral Sky ('member that?) on May 2, 1999. He knows this date and the dates of all the other times he's seen the band perform, what songs were played at each show, the percentage of songs performed off each of their albums at the show last night, and that this concert had a song rarity ranking of 15 out of 33 (whatever that means).
As a member of antsmarching.org, a fan site popular years back, you can keep track of this kind of genuinely nerdly stuff. It's like your own personal online DMB baseball card. Apparently, he and 305 other Ants Marching members were at the show too. Wait a minute; were they fucking with us about the 305? We always knew God was a fan of Miami jokes.
So, was the show last night a 10 or a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10? Well, it was not a 10, and it wasn't a 5. Just as each song meandered in jam fashion, so did the tempo of the evening. The concert was not seamless, and there were somewhat long pauses between almost every song. It seemed apparent that Dave was simply hot as shit. Like physically overheated (you perverts) and overwhelmed by the humidity. He kept saying things like, "Keep warm, it's a little bit chilly." But sarcastically, because it was balls hot out there. It was possibly a choppy show because these guys were taking breaks to wring the sweat out of their shirts. Dave definitely did a costume change.
Either way, everyone on stage was a fantastically talented and skilled musician. Like 'em or not, you can't say they suck. Boyd Tinsley on the violin, in particular, was a treat. Carter Beauford was chillin' on the drums, and Stefan Fessard hopped around the stage like a dorky version of Flea. Much of the show's songs revolved around the instrumentation of saxophonist Jeff Coffin of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones and trumpeter Rashawn Ross. Dave kept calling out guitarist Tim Reynolds for praise. And Dave himself, well, even though he was uncomfortably warm, he provided the emotionality and strong vocals fitting of the superstar he is.
Something struck us as funny, though, about this whole divided reaction to "Typical Situation." Just about all white, Asian, or Hispanic Americans and a small group of black dudes between the ages of 26 and 40 owned a copy of Under the Table and Dreaming or Crash. But that was where the love ended. That's normal. For those next-level folks, going to DMB shows is like playing the bingo of songs. For normal DMB fans, a song is a reminder of a time and place. Since then, we've all moved on to listening to crap like Rihanna and Drake or whatever. But for those who settled in comfortably and permanently into Daveland, we wondered, what is the experience of being at a show like this? Listening to the same songs for the past 15 years? Don't you get tired of this again and again?
"It stops being about the singular experience and becomes a comprehensive experience," Handrew informed us. It's about variations in the songs, the dynamics between performers. He says, "The changes are what's important, it's how it deviates. It's about where they are jamming, who's jamming. It's about the living experience. It's bigger than the two-hour show. You have to look at it in the context of the tour." Well, then we're shit out of luck 'cause all we know is that this summer tour started in May.
But that's OK, since Handrew introduced us to dmbalmanac.com, which has so much information on this subject that it seriously should be removed from the internet. Oh, and there's weeklydavespeak.com, which has recordings of shit Dave says between songs. Which, come on now, that's just weird. A bit of friendly advice to those who run this site: If you get a job, a girlfriend usually follows.
Back to last night: Tinsley's violin solo during the final song of the concert, "Ants Marching," was a delight, and our inner 19-year-old was kinda thrilled to say those words with the rest of the crowd: "People in every direction/No words exchanged, no time to exchange." Such a sucker for a sing-along.
The first song of the encore was low-key amazing. Dave Matthews brought out a 12-string guitar to perform Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale." Some lady behind us couldn't get over it. She just kept yelling, "This is unbelievable! 'A Whiter Shade of Pale?!?!'" (The exclamation marks actually hung in the humid air next to the question marks -- weirdest thing).
Even though Dave's an old fart and a bit of a keg face, he's still got all of the cutes, charisma, and vocal power that he did when they released Under the Table and Dreaming. Even so, DMB looks like the dads of Dave Matthews Band onstage. But sometimes for bands with age, as in their case, comes increasingly fantastic performances. So, cheers to all of those little ants marching. There are definitely worse leaders for a colony to follow than King Dave.
The crowd: These guys and their girlfriends.
Overheard in the crowd: "If you wear a jersey past the age of 18, you are a douchebag." -- Two old dudes.
Personal bias: I am equally repelled by most DMB songs and oddly moved by the stuff of the '90s. And I'd still go on a date with Dave if he asked, and by date, I mean, I'd you know, go on a "date" with him.
So Much to Say »
Anyone Seen the Bridge »
Blue Water (partial) »
You & Me
Shake Me Like a Monkey
Out of My Hands
Belly Belly Nice
Don't Drink the Water
So Damn Lucky
A Whiter Shade of Pale
Pantala Naga Pampa »
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