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Matthews summers in Mansfield

July 12th, 2005

The Boston Globe - By Steve Morse

MANSFIELD -- Finally, perfect weather for a show at the Tweeter -- and a perfect host in Dave Matthews. He drew a sold-out crowd of nearly 20,000 fans, but what made the event shine was a continued sense of musical discovery.

The Dave Matthews Band gets away with perhaps the widest variety of music on the summer shed circuit -- from mountain hoedowns to African dance-pop, pretty love ballads, and mellifluous bebop. Call it part Woodstock, part Tanglewood Jazz Festival, with a bit of Telluride thrown in for good measure.

Matthews was clearly up for Boston (no surprise given a history that dates back to playing Nantucket's Muse club), and he pulled out ''#34," a suite-like gem that marked its first live performance in 12 years, according to the group's website, The well-oiled crowd roared approval of old favorites ''Crush," ''Drive in Drive Out" (with LeRoi Moore excelling on baritone sax, after playing soprano sax earlier), and political anthem ''Don't Drink the Water," about the exploitation of Native Americans. That brought out Matthews's most emphatic vocal.

The band played under a semicircular lighting truss -- with some lights hanging so close as to create a living-room atmosphere ideal for the newer, more reflective songs from the ''Stand Up" CD. These included ''You Might Die Trying" (with Matthews urging, ''If you give, you begin to live"), the choice ballad ''Steady as You Go," and the joyously open-throated ''Hunger for the Great Light." Matthews may not always have the deepest lyrical sensibility, but the simplicity matched the complex musical arrangements that lend DMB its distinctiveness.

The night's journey wasn't complete without a winsome cover of the Zombies' ''Time of the Season," with Matthews chuckling at the end as he fell away from the microphone. Bottom line: This is a confident band that can do just about anything and make it work.

Openers G. Love & Special Sauce connected with a rejuvenated set of rhythmically twisted, jive-encrusted songs that followed Love's dictum of ''chillin' with the Special Sauce." A nice comeback for them.

© Copyright 2005 Globe Newspaper Company.