August 5th, 2007
Tuesday night's Police show in East Hartford may have been this summer's local buzz event, but multi-night stands by the Dave Matthews Band in front of full houses at the Dodge Music Center in Hartford are the reliable centerpiece of the outdoor concert season in these parts.
Saturday night, the steadily appealing act that has been anchoring the season annually since the 1990s opened this year's stop in town with a fluid program stacked with favorite tunes, and took enough turns and liberties with the material to keep it fresh for an adoring sellout crowd.
The seven-piece band's manner is that of a jam band for listeners with relatively short attentions spans, as it dips and swerves through tunes while avoiding lengthy detours. An opener of "Best of What's Around" was typical of the method, a generally compact delivery of a song in which Matthews' rhythm acoustic guitar-playing and the crisp drum presence of Carter Beauford gave the song's eclectic bob a backbone.
Fiddler Boyd Tinsley's contributions to early songs were laid back touches such as his sawing across the mellow pulse of "One Sweet World," but his high-tone contributions added frenetic energy to the rhythmic cadence of "Louisiana Bayou" later in the show, and sparked with LeRoi Moore's plump saxophone trimming in the lively "Grey Street."
Matthews leaned toward Peter Gabriel-style, softly rendered vocal intimacy as he exhaled lyrics over Butch Taylor's trickling piano line, but the show was mostly full of buoyant energy similar to what was found in the hearty "#27" and the festive, engaging dance jam "You Might Die Trying." The rock pulse of "Hunger for the Great Light" was fired up by Matthews' ragged shout as it ascended to a cacophonous swell.
Xavier Rudd spent his 45-minute opening set building hypnotic sonic patchworks with multiple instruments, and he returned with an Australian didgeridoo to abet Matthews in a slow moving meditation of "Still Water," then used its deep bass bleat to color the hard-driving crowd pleaser "Don't Drink the Water."
A breezy jam through "#41" made for a mellow trip through familiar territory, its twists and turns staying mild as the audience chanted along to its established concert structure. A closing trip through "Two Step" ventured a little further afield as Taylor sauntered off on a jazzy keyboard trip and then turned the tune over to Beauford's hands, but its appealingly large presence never veered off course.
Matthews went solo to lead off a three-song encore that extended the show to two hours and 40 minutes, picking at the slender "Sister" with his voice at its slightest. The remainder of the band joined him for another pair of catalog highlights, the full bodied sway of "Crush" and the perky "Stay (Wasting Time)."
The Dave Matthews Band returns to the Dodge Music Center in Hartford tonight at 7 p.m.
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