August 21, 2007
Plain Dealer Pop Music Critic
You don't suppose Dave Matthews is just trying to get out of doing the yard work back home, do you?
Whatever the reason, the singer-guitarist from Seattle (by way of South Africa) and his beloved jam band hit the road almost every summer, inevitably ending up at Blossom Music Center at some point. They packed the place again Monday night, despite miserable weather.
You know you're hot stuff if thousands of fans are willing to sit through a steady rain just to bask in your performance.
Ever the casual superstar, Matthews, 40, ambled onstage in an untucked shirt and jeans. "Celebrate, we will / Because life is short but sweet for certain," he crooned, brimming with childlike wonder during the toe-tapping opener "Two Step."
Matthews eagerly shared the spotlight with core band members Boyd Tinsley (violin), LeRoi Moore (sax), Stefan Lessard (bass) and Carter Beauford (drums), as well as longtime sidekick Butch Taylor on keyboards and Rashawn Ross on trumpet. Everyone got multiple chances to solo, especially during the majestic "Grey Street," when it seemed like everyone was soloing at once.
On a mellower note, Matthews accompanied himself on acoustic guitar for a mostly solo rendition of the ballad "Sister," with sweet vocal harmonies by Beauford, Ross and Taylor.
Alongside "Where Are You Going," "Crush," "Stand Up (For It)" and other well-received standbys, promising works-in-progress were unveiled.
"It's still learning how to walk, but it's doing alright," Matthews said by way of introducing "#27," which had a Neil Young-ish vibe.
Another new tune, "Corn Bread," came off like a heavy-metal hoedown. As with many Dave Matthews Band songs, it was hard to determine exactly what the lyrics were about, although it's safe to say they actually had very little to do with corn bread.
As nuclear blasts flashed on video screens in the middle of the weirdly captivating "Eh Hee," Matthews proclaimed: "Praise God, who has many names / But the devil has many more."
The opening bars of an older number, "Too Much," stirred like a giant hibernating beast coming back to life, roused by Moore's baritone sax, Taylor's soulful organ vamps and Lessard's throbbing bass riffs.
"I shall miss these things / When it all rolls by," Matthews sang in "Stay (Wasting Time)," coming up with a fitting epitaph toward the end of the 2 1/2-hour concert.
How can we miss Matthews & Co. if they keep coming around, year after year? Lucky for them -- and us -- they have yet to wear out their welcome.