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Hugging it out with DMB nation

June 3rd, 2006

by David Lindquist

c060306.jpgAfter writing what I believed to be a generally positive review of the Dave Matthews Band show Friday at Verizon Wireless Music Center, my voicemail and e-mail were hammered by quite a bit of negativity.

I'm pretty sure two words put me in the doghouse of DMB fans, and these words weren't published in The Star.

When I filed my review Friday night, the closing sentence read: "And there would be no harm in shelving subdued nonstarters such as 'The Stone' (which opened Friday's program) and recently revived oldie 'JTR.'"

An editor trimmed the words "recently revived" before the story went to press, perhaps because the reference wouldn't make sense to a general reader without some useful context.

If given a do-over, I would write: "The band recently revived the song 'JTR' after not playing it for several years, but there would be no harm in shelving it again. It's a subdued nonstarter, not unlike 'The Stone' -- which opened Friday's program."

The readers who contacted me during the weekend may not have liked that sentiment any more than what was published, but I could have been spared accusations that I'm clueless.

So, to recap, I'm well aware "JTR" wasn't performed in concert from August 2001 until this April's New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

Regarding other grievances, some readers asked if Friday's was the first DMB show I've ever attended and another reader requested that The Star send a fan to review the band next summer.

For the record, I've also written reviews for the Dave Matthews Band at Verizon Wireless Music Center in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2004 and 2005 -- plus solo sets by Matthews at the 2001 and 2003 editions of Farm Aid.

I don't believe a writer's status as a "fan" or non-fan should influence a concert review. I go to a show to write specifically about that performance.

In 2003, I wrote: "Matthews shot past mere intensity and seemed to wail in tongues during 'Don't Drink the Water,' a vicious satire of governments led by bullies. 'You must move on or we will bury you,' sang a bug-eyed Matthews. His romantic side emerged with 'You Never Know,' a restless call to action regarding squandered dreams. When we see Matthews at the top of his game, there's true inspiration in his message."

In 1999, I saw something different: "As the concert wore on, the spotlight often fell on violin player Boyd Tinsley -- who plays unimaginative solos with little tension or release. No worries, though. Just drag the bow over the strings for a few minutes and the Abercrombie Army will explode in adoration."

Inconsistency is both blessing and curse for any improvisational or "jam" band. Matthews and Co. mix things up every night in hopes of creating something better than what they'd have if they played the same set list night after night. Low points, however, are always the risk.

I maintain that Friday's show delivered both peaks and valleys. Tinsley, the same player I ripped in 1999, proved to be the catalyst for Friday's best moments.

Thanks to a recent interview with Matthews, I felt more prepared than ever to write about the band.

The singer-guitarist told me to keep an eye out for new material in concert, and Friday did feature a world premiere in the song "The Idea of You." It's a tune that impressed, thanks to Matthews' assertive vocals and a childlike sense of wonder in the lyrics.

In my recap of the show, I mentioned that "Idea" lacked an instrumental spark in its second half -- a comment that managed to rankle a reader. I didn't expect a brand-new song to be fully formed; I merely reported that it wasn't.

In the big picture, I'm grateful so many people care enough to defend their favorite musician. They're the people who keep Matthews -- and me -- employed.

June 02, 2006 Speaking with Dave Posted by David Lindquist

After several years of asking and being denied, I was given the chance to speak with Dave Matthews in advance of this weekend's Dave Matthews Band shows at Verizon Wireless Music Center. Most of that interview is published in today's Go! section.

Thanks to the magic of the blogosphere, I'll share some more of the conversation. Matthews and his band mates had been a notable holdout in terms of selling their music on iTunes, but they recently changed their minds.

Here's what Matthews said about the shift in policy:

"There was no time that we were thinking, 'No, we shouldn't do it,' but there was no reason to hurry. One of the things that made us cautious was maybe a melancholy attachment to the idea of 'the album.' The whole presentation, the whole idea of a record as opposed to the idea of just singles. We've never sold singles before as a band. I think that was part of our hesitance, but with the idea that we eventually would do it.

"So we wanted to look into how we could negotiate the relationship, so we don't feel like we're just being exploited. We've been very intimately tied to the digital world. As soon as the Internet began to happen, we've been tied into it. It hasn't been a hesitance about that. We always want, as much as possible, to keep control over our music. But I don't think it's ever been in a 'crazy' way or a 'We're going to sue you' kind of way. We don't to punish people for loving our music. At the same time, we don't want to hand over our catalog and say, 'Oh, do whatever you want with it.'

"I'm very happy about being on iTunes. In the past, a number of my friends have said, 'Why can't I just get your music on iTunes?' I was getting tired of hearing that."

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