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Reviews of Dave Matthews Band Concerts Past

June 7th, 2006

Certain bands have a sound that is perfectly fit for summer. The Dave Matthews Band is one. The good-vibe rockers play music that's best enjoyed outdoors, while wearing a t-shirt and shorts. But while the weather is usually warm when Dave's on stage, the opinons of many of The Post's reviewers over the years have been decidedly lukewarm.

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August 30, 1995

The Dave Matthews Band isn't exactly a normal live act. Most bands, for instance, don't see their violinist get more applause than their lead vocalist. (Most bands don't include a violin, but that's another matter.) Most bands don't skip their biggest single in a show. But this quirky Charlottesville quintet had no trouble keeping the attention of a packed Nissan Pavilion Sunday night.

The first thing to know about the Dave Matthews Band is that this group knows how to cook. Almost every song wound up at five minutes or longer, with frequent changes in rhythm, melody and structure. "Jimi Thing" lasted 17 minutes -- with the help of David Harris, opener Dionne Farris's guitarist -- and voyaged from funky world beat to a muscular electric guitar solo to a screaming six-directions-at-once improv sequence to a tranquil acoustic-electric guitar duo.

"Drive In, Drive Out," which began as straightforward as anything from DMB can, evolved into a quasi-two-step, spurred by Boyd Tinsley's lively violin. And the band luxuriated in an extended introduction to "Ants Marching," twisting riffs this way and that before launching into the first verse.

Matthews himself was in fine form, his vocals routinely stretching from a falsetto to a deep, throaty growl. For all his apparent surprise at playing in such a big room -- the band's last D.C.-area gig was at Lisner Auditorium -- he was obviously enjoying himself, as was the rest of the band.

The set list included several unreleased songs, but not the band's biggest single, "What Would You Say." It's that kind of deliberate oddity that ensures DMB isn't about to be labeled as "typical" anything.

Rob Pegoraro The Washington Post

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September 4, 1996

If there's one word you don't want to say about a set by the Dave Matthews Band, it's "predictable." The improvisation-addicted Charlottesville quintet excels when it leaves its audience guessing about the next turn in a song.

But parts of the group's show Saturday at the Nissan Pavilion missed that element of surprise, with several songs -- notably, "So Much to Say" -- played exactly like their recorded versions. These renditions all drew ecstatic, sing-along responses from the crowd, but they would have benefited from more of the group's creative capriciousness. Fortunately, that spark returned later in the show. For example, "Warehouse," which began with some stripped-down jamming between violinist Boyd Tinsley and Matthews on guitar, then merged into folk-rock and wound up closer to calypso, with Leroi Moore's tranquil saxophone solo gliding over the soothing rhythms of Tinsley's pizzicato playing. A scorching version of "Tripping Billies" met the same high standard, but with more noise: The band closed out the tune with a fierce jam between Tinsley and Matthews, who apparently broke a string on his guitar in the process.

The band's version of "Ants Marching" managed to encapsulate these extremes. It began in a magnificent burst of improvisation, but then the rest of the song came off as if on a timetable, down to the chanted lines in the song's second verse about "people in every direction" -- an apt description of the packed scene at Nissan.

Rob Pegoraro The Washington Post

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June 17, 1997

Talk about standing ovations. At Nissan Pavilion Sunday night, some 25,000 fans of the Dave Matthews Band stood and cheered for more than two hours as the Charlottesville-bred band repeatedly blurred the lines separating rock, funk, jazz, blues, folk and world beat. In fact, at times it seemed as if the show's only constant -- apart from the crowd's unwavering approval -- was the unmistakable sound of Matthews's percussive acoustic guitar and clipped vocals, a combination that often made him sound like a rhythm section unto himself.

Since many of the band's songs grew out of improvisational settings, it wasn't surprising to hear fiddler Boyd Tinsley and saxophonist Leroi Moore carve out a lot of additional solo space or to hear Matthews and drummer Carter Beauford vigorously underpinning the extensive jams. What was surprising was how well the expanded songs retained their shape and momentum. "Jimi Thing," "Ants Marching" and "Crash Into Me" were among several tunes that benefited from the spirited and sometimes spontaneous interaction among the musicians, including guest banjoist Bela Fleck, whose band opened the show.

The exchanges between Fleck and Tinsley were particularly impressive, at once playful and precise, while the combination of Tinsley's raspy tone and dramatic phrasing alone was enough to reinvigorate some of the band's more familiar tunes. And throughout the show, nothing -- not even Matthews's often puzzling lyrics -- came close to blunting the band's rhythmically persuasive power.

Mike Joyce The Washington Post

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August 24, 1998

The Dave Matthews Band opened the first of two weekend concerts at the Nissan Pavilion Saturday night by once again erasing the lines that separate rock, funk, pop and jazz. And it had plenty of support. Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters, the seminal jazz-funk quintet, not only opened the show; three members of the band -- keyboardist Hancock, saxophonist Bennie Maupin and percussionist Bill Summers -- later helped the Matthews band sustain a freewheeling, genre-splicing momentum.

Of course, the capacity crowd, which literally danced the night away, would have been perfectly content hearing the Matthews band alone, as evidenced by the earsplitting responses to "Ants Marching" and other concert favorites. But the combination of Hancock's quirky riffs and chromatic runs, Maupin's full-throated solos and Summers's polyrhythmic finesse added welcome color, soulfulness and texture to a few tunes and sparked some freely improvised passages.

Still, beginning with "Seek Up" and concluding 2 1/2 hours later with a string of encores that featured smart covers of "Stir It Up" and "All Along the Watchtower," Matthews didn't deny the audience any familiar pleasures. The tunes, an often enigmatic collection of hit singles, including a crowd-fueled "Too Much," and expanded album tracks, were nearly always distinguished by the unmistakable sound of Matthews's staccato vocal delivery and percussive acoustic guitar. Fiddler Boyd Tinsley and saxophonist Leroi Moore then punctuated the arrangements with solos or fills alternately inspired by R&B grooves, jazz harmonies and rhapsodic balladry. For their part, drummer Carter Beauford and bassist Stefan Lessard frequently maintained a sharply syncopated beat that the crowd couldn't shake if it wanted to. And clearly, it didn't. Oddly enough, the opening set by the Headhunters seemed rather tame and dated when the band performed new tunes, such as bassist Paul Jackson's "Tip Toe," and surprisingly fresh and inventive when the quintet unearthed its old hit, "Watermelon Man."

Mike Joyce The Washington Post

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August 3, 1999

Maybe the heat got to these guys, because the Dave Matthews Band looked awfully relaxed Sunday night at Nissan Pavilion. Many of the band's jam sessions unwound at an uncharacteristically gentle pace, some of the music was quiet enough to be drowned out by the crowd noise, the musicians were downright pokey between songs--it was as if the gang were playing Blues Alley instead of the biggest shed around town.

"The Dreaming Tree" epitomized this low-gear, low-key approach; after meandering through the bulk of the ballad, the band embarked on a long, slow instrumental excursion, led by drummer Carter Beauford's minimalist work. Saxophonist LeRoi Moore chimed in with a winding, unstructured solo, and a good seven minutes of hushed, jazzy tinkering resulted. Unfortunately the crummy, bass-heavy sound mix washed out many of the finer points of this digression (this selective amplification also rendered most of Matthews's between-songs comments into unintelligible mush).

The band brought things to a boil on a few up-tempo items--violinist Boyd Tinsley turned in a typically combustive solo on "Lie in Our Graves." A few songs later, he helped kick off a stupendous version of "Two Step," which burst from its meditative intro into frenzied choruses, then tapered off into a hammering drum solo at the end.

Next to that furious intensity, the quieter, slower stuff sounded a bit off. Considered on its own, though, it made for some interesting explorations, and it was heartening to see this band try different things, even when that meant not giving the fans what they might want--a risk the group seems prepared to run, considering that it left its signature tune, "Ants Marching," off Sunday's set list.

Rob Pegoraro The Washington Post

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July 21, 2000

Back in the day, when Joe Gibbs stalked the sideline and John Riggins ran through holes opened by the Hogs, a light but persistent rain falling on RFK Stadium was called "Redskins Weather" because it rendered opponents helpless against the Burgundy and Gold's bruising running attack.

Unfortunately, the light but persistent rain that fell on RFK Wednesday night fell on a Dave Matthews Band concert, and therefore was just called a mess. Matthews and his five support musicians didn't seem at all fazed by the wet conditions--but they were on a covered stage. The huge crowd didn't seem to mind much either, howling with approval for Matthews all evening. Or perhaps the constant cheers were because the inclement circumstances hadn't affected cellular communications. With seemingly every other concertgoer shouting into a phone, it was clear that the devices played an indispensable role in the evening, assisting in vital tasks like orderly seating, stadium safety and the ordering of emergency beers. Additionally, several attendees phoned each other to say that tube tops may be coming back in style, and they're, like, so tacky.

Oh yeah, there was music, too. Matthews, whose group has grown to enormous popularity since its bar-band beginnings around the University of Virginia, hasn't contributed anything particularly memorable to the rock-and-roll canon, but his compositions are pleasant enough. DMB has always been at its most effective in concert, and versions of songs like "#41," "Stay (Wasting Time)" and "Two Step" were the reason many didn't mind getting so wet. The band--violinist Boyd Tinsley, bassist Stefan Lessard, drummer Carter Beauford and reedman Leroi Moore, who were joined by three female backup singers and keyboardist Butch Taylor--favors conservative improvisation, and "Lie in Our Graves," "Ants Marching" and "Drive In, Drive Out" all surged and crashed with the kind of easy-to-follow dynamics essential to making a stadium show work.

The state-of-the-art video displays at both sides of the stage helped the presentation immensely, and even though the pictures and sound didn't quite sync up from all areas of the stadium, the professional camera work allowed everyone to enjoy Matthews's trademark goofy shuffle dance and arched eyebrows.

The highlight of the show may have been the version of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" in which opener Ben Harper joined the band. The song's somber sentiment didn't fit the scene at RFK, though. The place had taken on the atmosphere of where DMB works best: a big college party. Well, a big wet college party.

Patrick Foster The Washington Post

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December 24, 2002

The Dave Matthews Band finished its current tour Sunday night at MCI Center before a sellout crowd of remarkably clean-cut fans who knew all the words to all the songs and were not hesitant in singing them at the tops of their voices from 8:20 to 11 p.m. Such is the phenomenon of the Charlottesville band, which, given its humble origins and limited gifts, is made up of five of the luckiest men in show business.

Certainly the fans would argue, but there are no virtuosos in the Dave Matthews Band, no matter how dramatically violinist Boyd Tinsley saws his fiddle. Matthews's singing range is limited to a single baritone register; drummer Carter Beauford overplays.

But as a whole, the unit performs the perfect contemporary rock music for an arena setting. The elliptical lyrics are easily shouted, there is no threat of dancing to the drowsy tempos, and there's little happening onstage to distract the eye from the players as they take the extended solos that come along with the regularity of a city bus. But if a song runs for eight minutes, as most of DMB's do, there are bound to be flashes of excitement, if not wit. "Crush" finally exposed the band's funk roots, with sax player LeRoi Moore taking charge; "No. 36" picked up the rhythmic energy, at least temporarily; and "Don't Burn the Pig" provided a whimsical title in a concert that was otherwise whimsy-free.

Buzz McClain The Washington Post

Working with new producer re-invigorates Dave Matthews Band

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