June 22nd, 2006
Alltel Pavilion Raleigh, N.C.
Having never been to see Dave Matthews Band live before, I wasn't quite sure what to expect.
I left more than two hours early for the hour-and-15-minute drive, hoping to ensure plenty of time to get there early.
No such luck. As traffic built up just outside of Raleigh, it would last all the way to the exit. Then to the pavilion. Then to the parking lots
One lane for that much traffic once off the interstate was an easy recipe for disaster. By the time I reached the venue, the main parking lots were already full and people were being directed into nearby fields.
By the time my car rolled onto its grassy parking spot, it was more than three hours after I had left home.
A long hike to the pavilion, a long line for will call, a long line to be searched, a long line to the seats - by the time, I sat down, I had approximately two minutes before DMB hit the stage.
I looked over my shoulder to see a massive sea of people covering the lawn. You just had to assume there was, in fact, a lawn. Not a hint of green could be seen.
I heard there were still tickets available on the radio on the way to the show, but I'm not sure where they were for - unless they were selling seats on the roof.
Now, I've been to a lot of concerts over the years. A lot. And I have never seen this many people in one venue before - The lawn was overflowing, the seating section was full.
It would have been nice to see the opener, Animal Liberation Orchestra. ALO hit the stage at 7 p.m., but at that time I was 8 miles from the exit and stuck in traffic.
Yes, it took more than an hour to go about 10 miles. Sitting in my car, I was wishing I was already inside the pavilion, listening to the funky, melodic stylings of ALO, but it was not to be.
I didn't have a prayer. Having listened to ALO's recent album, "Fly Between Falls," the music would have been a perfect "appetizer" for DMB.
It's laid back, with a touch of humor. "Girl I Wanna Lay You Down" has been on the airwaves and it would have been nice to catch it live. ALO gives the impression that their live show is better than the studio version. I'll have to wait for another day to find out if that's true.
DMB hit the stage around 8:35 p.m. for what would be a two-and-a-half hour set.
It was a show for the true fans, and not a greatest hits show by any means.
Opening with "One Sweet World," the crowd was on its feet from the moment Matthews walked out on stage and picked up his acoustic guitar.
Dressed in a black t-shirt and blue jeans, Matthews bounced around the stage from time to time, appearing to enjoy every minute of the performance. His laid-back demeanor was no surprise, but his inaudible comments to the audience were.
The sound all night was fantastic - not too loud, and clear enough to hear most vocals. However, between songs, Matthews would sometimes address the crowd, but you'd only hear mumbling.
"I think he said something about the Hurricanes..." or "I heard 'Thanks,' but I'm not sure what else he said.." were some of the comments around me.
Being two days after the Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup, it's no surprise that the loudest applause of the night came when drummer Carter Beauford was shown wearing a Canes jersey.
The band was in fine form for "Drive In Drive Out" and "Two Step" - both of which contained extended jams. The latter was the encore closer.
Jams were the standard on the night, as Matthews and violinist Boyd Tinsley often stalked the stage, staring at each other and grooving in the rhythm of the song.
The band was also joined on stage all night by Yerba Buena/Soulive trumpet player Rashawn Ross. He added a nice compliment to the band's horn section.
Smiles on the faces of those in the band and in the crowd, it was a show that appeared to truly enjoy.
The show's encore opened with a new song, "Sister," which was performed solo by Matthews on guitar with a New York City skyline on the screens behind him.
Overall, it was a long energetic set that completely wiped out the stress of the three-hour car ride and lines of traffic and people from my mind.
Sure, I could list 20 songs I would have loved to have heard last night, but I wasn't disappointed. Maybe I'll scratch some of those 20 off my list the next time around.