April 12th, 2008
By Gene Stout
Dave Matthews and longtime collaborator Tim Reynolds capped a day of enlightenment, inspiration and compassion with an electrifying performance at KeyArena.
Coinciding with the Dalai Lama's historic visit to Seattle, Friday's concert was a benefit for Seeds of Compassion, the campaign to raise worldwide awareness for "the importance of nurturing kindness and compassion."
Matthews and Reynolds' concert covered a wide range of songs, from the harrowing "Gravedigger" to the funky, countrified "Cornbread." The sound was surprisingly good for a semi-acoustic show at KeyArena, and overhead video screens assured that everyone in the packed arena could see close-ups of the two musicians' masterful guitar-playing.
Reynolds' playing, in fact, was nothing short of brilliant. And the interplay between the two guitarists was lively and often riveting.
"I'm lucky I get to share the stage with Tim," Matthews said. "He's one of my heroes."
The concert was unusually laid-back, perhaps a reflection of the evening's overriding themes of peace and compassion.
The 4 1/2-hour event began with a staged dialogue with the Dalai Lama by Matthews and NBC broadcast journalist Ann Curry, as well as a surprise, semi-acoustic set by Seattle band Death Cab for Cutie.
"Everyone told me to be myself -- and myself was nervous," Matthews quipped during his concert about the dialogue earlier with the Dalai Lama.
With the help of an interpreter, the Tibetan spiritual leader struggled to respond to questions from Matthews and Curry, who in turn struggled to understand him. Matthews often cut through the fog with a pithy comment, and much of the exchange was unintentionally humorous. But the Dalai Lama was good-natured and cheerful.
In a hushed arena, Matthews wondered what role music played in the promotion of peace, understanding and compassion. In a long, rambling answer, the Dalai Lama said, among other things, "Music is very effective at promoting human values."
Concurring with the Dalai Lama that the world needed more compassionate female energy to counteract the aggressiveness of males, Matthews explained that his wife is often a calming influence when he gets angry. And he has high praise for his mother: "I always thought that my mother should be queen of the world. She's the queen of my world."
At the end of the dialogue, Matthews tapped fists with the spiritual leader in a friendly gesture that brought grins to both of them and much of the audience. The Dalai Lama then draped a white shawl around Matthews and Curry.
Death Cab for Cutie, led by singer-guitarist Ben Gibbard, made light of the evening's theme of compassion when Gibbard encountered a technical problem.
"Taking a lesson from the Dalai Lama, I'm going to try to have some compassion for this mike stand," he said as he fiddled with the uncooperative microphone.
The band's otherwise smooth-running set featured such introspective songs as "Talking Bird" (from the new album, "Narrow Stairs"), "Title and Registration" and "Soul Meets Body."
Matthews and Reynolds opened with the moving "Bartender" (featuring the lyric, "Bartender, please fill my glass for me/ With the wine you gave Jesus") and the wistful "Old Dirt Hill (Bring That Beat Back)."
With such songs as "Save Me," "Sister," "Lie in Our Graves," "So Damn Lucky" and "Stay Or Leave" (with its memorable line about "kissing whiskey by the fire"), the show was similar to Matthews and Reynolds' performance at a pro-Barack Obama "Change Rocks" concert April 6 at Indiana University.
Matthews' goofy sense of humor kept the crowd entertained. In one anecdote, he talked about watching two giant tortoises in the Indian Ocean having sex -- "like two Volkswagens" on top of each other.
Near the end of his 90-minute set, Matthews sang "Eh Hee," a lively neo-spiritual that is featured in a video filmed in Seattle with a modern-dance troupe. The song features the lyric, "I'm gonna drop the devil to his knees."
"You really need 30 people to sing it," he said.