Today in London, England, the Dave Matthews Band kicked off their 11 date European portion of the Summer 2009 tour. The intimate show at the Brixton Academy, seating only 4921 people boasted a great set, opening with “Rapunzel” and featuring many “Big Whiskey” treasures, along with old favorites like “The Stone,” “Jimi Thing,” "Two Step," and "Grey Street." After England, the ensemble will travel to France, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, The Netherlands, and Spain, before wrapping it up on July 11th in Lisbon, Portugal.
While we may think of DMB as mainly an American touring group, these musicians are no stranger to the other side of the big seas. Since their European debut of 11 dates in 1995, these men have made numerous trips to Europe, South America, and Australia, performing at festivals, free events, and small and large venues alike. They even opened for acts like the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young back in the late 90's. Dave has also traveled solo across the Atlantic, joining with Tim Reynolds in February and March of 2007, for their 14 stop European stint, during which “Cornbread” first graced the stage at Newcastle City Hall (England), on 2/23/07. In one interview from May 2006, a jet-lagged and “delirious” Dave talked about his desire to reach overseas fans, articulating that he didn't see much of a point traveling all the way to the U.K. to entertain a bunch of Americans when he can easily do that on his home turf. From the band's growing popularity among citizens of other countries, it seems that Dave's wish is the world's command.
There are special challenges facing the adoring International Dave Matthews Band enthusiasts that we in the United States are fortunate to evade. From internet programs, like Hulu, that don't broadcast everywhere, to exorbitant shipping prices, and longer waits for merchandise, global admirers have much to contend with, but that doesn't stop DMB's multi-national following from escalating year after year. In some ways there is a natural filter that exists, allowing only the highest quality music to transcend U.S. borders, and permeate other cultures. This phenomenon is all too familiar in my household, where my husband, who is of Argentinian descent, will only recognize everlasting names like U2 and Madonna who “made it to Argentina.” No Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, or Culture Club for him, although that's probably for the best. In any event, it is no wonder that DMB has gained such an audience abroad, as their live concerts are unparalleled. The energy and chemistry that the assembly exudes charms supporters from roots as diverse as the music itself. Perhaps part of the magic lies in the group's ability to integrate sounds from their travels, imbuing the songs with tastes of the globe that show respect and devotion to their worldwide partners. This reminds me of the story behind “Back to Alexandra,” a song written by the amazing penny whistle player Big Voice Jack, who Dave met in South Africa. When Dave asked Big Voice Jack where he could find a penny whistle for LeRoi, Big Voice Jack offered Dave his own, explaining that his aspiration was to play in a huge stadium someday, but as that had not yet occurred, he would be grateful to share his instrument with LeRoi, thereby allowing his penny whistle to be heard by many. Dave made Big Voice Jack's vision materialize in June of 1998 when both musicians shared the stage at Giants Stadium, with a seating capacity of over 80,000! Now 11 years later, with a South African trip potentially in the works for DMB, we can only imagine how many long awaited hopes and dreams resting quietly in the hearts of Dave's native followers will finally have their day in the sun.
Hayley Bauman, Psy.D.
Author of Serendipity and the Search for True Self