Dave Matthews, King's College, London

March 2nd, 2006

By Gavin Martin

uk.gif In the States, with sales of more than 30 million, Dave Matthews is a superstar. In the UK, however, his band's blend of jam-band folk-blues and world music barely registers. Yet, with a substantial portion of the audience comprising itinerant members of US and Australian colleges, tickets for tonight's show were fetching £200 on the black market. The chance to see him thrashing an acoustic guitar in a 700-capacity venue rather than the Stateside enormo-dromes where his multi-racial Charlottesville-bred band usually hold court doesn't come along often.

Shambling onstage with a minimum of fuss, Matthews hoists up his trousers and adjusts his belt-buckle. After the first of many rambling but humorous monologues, he plays "Bartender", blues with a tribal beat, encompassing rasping vocals and a coda of wordless wailing. Combined with the garrulous between-song tales the performance calls to mind a stoner-Springsteen without the E Street band.

The new single "American Baby", the first of only three songs from the current Matthews Band album Stand Up, is a tender and earnest hymn to his adopted homeland, and displays a liberal decency.

"Where Are You Going", mouthed word for word by a young female fan at the lip of the stage, shows another songwriting talent; turning the openly crass chat-up line of the title into a gentle new-man lover's prayer.

The between song stories pile up: the one about the time spent growing up in early Seventies Cambridge, UK; a recent visit to his child's school play where one of the child actors inadvertently flashed the audience; and time spent out in the bush with fire-eating natives on a visit back to his South African birthplace.

And the inevitable pot-smoking story - discovering bliss, subsequent paranoia, and short term memory loss as a teen - is more entertaining than the nostalgic "Old Dirt Hill".

Much better is an unscripted divergence into an African gospel-blues mash-up centring on the line "Gonna Knock The Devil Down In His Floor". The 10-year-old "I Won't Give It Away" ensures a natural high, carried aloft on a summery groove and an audience sing-along.

Ending a set with "All Along The Watchtower" isn't even a great idea when Dylan does it, and Matthews has nothing to add to the song. But an encore, including the rapturously received "Everyday", just about saves the day.

In the States, with sales of more than 30 million, Dave Matthews is a superstar. In the UK, however, his band's blend of jam-band folk-blues and world music barely registers. Yet, with a substantial portion of the audience comprising itinerant members of US and Australian colleges, tickets for tonight's show were fetching £200 on the black market. The chance to see him