June 2nd, 2006
By David Lindquist
The Dave Matthews Band played a wealth of love songs and focused on its improvisational strengths Friday at Verizon Wireless Music Center. The concert for an audience of 21,000 fell short of perpetual brilliance, but it featured enough gems to signal a strong second performance tonight.
A highlight among Friday's romantic tunes was "The Idea of You," which made its public debut during the show.
Band leader Matthews belted high vocal notes and played a small 12-string guitar for "Idea," which celebrated the youthful feeling of falling in love. The lyrics even included promises to refrain from pulling a girl's hair or kicking her shins.
Despite the song's evident charms, it's still a bare framework lacking an instrumental spark in its second half. Elsewhere, however, Matthews and his bandmates stretched older material to impressive lengths. Violin player Boyd Tinsley stepped up first, rallying "Crush," another lovey-dovey selection, to a full-band triumph.
Actually, he made a motivational march from one side of the stage to the other. After trading riffs with guitarist Matthews and then bass player Stefan Lessard, Tinsley passed the spotlight to saxophone player LeRoi Moore. Moore gave way to guest trumpet star Rashawn Ross, who justified his presence through a clean, high-arcing passage. Finally, drummer Carter Beauford punctuated "Crush" with a rat-a-tat finish.
Solos also soared during "Bartender," which found Moore moving from bass saxophone at the outset to a pennywhistle at the end. The fatalistic lyrics of "Bartender" provided a change of pace amid affectionate messages in "Best of What's Around," "When the World Ends" and "Hunger for the Great Light."
The slightly risque "Hunger" proved to be a sensory-overload treat, from psychedelic vocal harmonies to Hammond B-3 organ played by Butch Taylor to a wall of bright lights and video screens at the back of the stage. But the total package wasn't always there. With a lineup enlarged to seven players, the band needs to troubleshoot arrangements that have become too dense. And there would be no harm in shelving subdued nonstarters such as "The Stone" (which opened Friday's program) and oldie "JTR."