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So much to say: Dave Matthews Band brings youthful spark to Fenway

July 8th, 2006

By Christopher Blag

fenway3.jpgThe fourth installment of Fenway’s great rock ’n’ roll experiment kicked off last night with a near-three-hour marathon set from the Dave Matthews Band.

After a rather marginal and by-the-numbers appearance from the ancient Rolling Stones last year, and the unbearably lame booking of the Carnival Cruise Line known as Jimmy Buffett the year before, Matthews came to the rescue, injecting a welcome, youthful unpredictability into the proceedings.

Dave Matthews’ initial foray into Fenway lore eased in gently, the set beginning with the mellow picking groove of “Everyday.” Several more tunes of the lazy-hammock persuasion followed, including the soft evolutionary strut of “Proudest Monkey” and the swirling make-out classic “Satellite.”

An undeniably funky and deliciously loose version of “Jimi Thing” finally kicked the band into fifth gear, with Boyd Tinsley sawing away on his fiddle with abandon, dreads flying, and guest trumpeter Rashawn Ross nearly blowing his lips off at the song’s sweaty climax. Matthews himself got into the wild spirit, rambling through a goofy but altogether charming scat solo.

Throughout the night, as with most Dave Matthews shows of late, it was the early classics that gained the heartiest reactions from the crowd, despite the fact that many of the teenagers thronging the ballpark were still in grade school when many of these tunes first came out.

There’s a reason for this. Newer tunes like the droning and dark “Bartender” (clocking in around 19 minutes and including an altogether unnecessary cocktail piano solo) and the neo-soul of “Can’t Stop” aren’t embedded with the same wealth of meaty pop hooks and delicious bite as the band’s earlier work.

That said, the insistent pulse of “Grey Street” and the brand-spanking-new and unabashedly romantic ballad “The Idea of You” stood out as some of the finest moments of the night. Older fans can rejoice: Matthews’ well is not yet dry.

Just 4 1/2 months after being diagnosed with breast cancer, Sheryl Crow proved to be more than up for the task of opening up for Matthews. Looking quite vibrant and nearly beaming with euphoria, Crow and her tight four piece-band barreled through a cavalcade of hits from her back catalog, her voice booming lusciously through staples such as “If It Makes You Happy” and the sexy soul groove of “My Favorite Mistake.”

Unfortunately, only a quarter of the crowd showed up for the embattled but courageous singer. Their loss.