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Perfect pitch: Dave Matthews slugs another Fenway homer

July 9th, 2006

By Jed Gottlieb

fenway15.jpgToss out any baseball cliche and chances are it would fit the Dave Matthews Band’s two-night stint at Fenway. Home runs? With a dozen hit singles, definitely. A two-game sweep? After consecutive nights of three-hour shows, without a doubt. Double plays? Actually, that one doesn’t fit.

After a Friday night set of old favorites and new material, Matthews and his cohorts conjured another show last night devoid of repeats. If that wasn’t enough to impress the sold-out stadium, the band unleashed a spot of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.”While the band had toyed with the tune in sound checks, the surprise cover came out of left field, tucked nicely between “So Much To Say” and a new song, “Break Free.”

But it took a while for the band to build to the fan frenzy of the Fenway favorite. The night began with a slow rendition of “One Sweet World” from their 1993 independent debut. From there, the band ambled through a series of popular, but mellowly executed, fan favorites including “What Would You Say,” “Say Goodbye” and “Grace is Gone.”

Even when things got sonically strange - and they did on numerous occasions - the crowd stayed with Matthews every step of the way. During “Don’t Drink the Water,” the band launched into five minutes of crescendoing dissonance, yet there was no bathroom-break exodus. The fact that the band can blast off into a Middle Eastern-inspired, free-jazz drone and the audience is willing to follow is testament to Matthews’ ability to captivate 40,000 people.

It also confirms the band’s unique place in rock ’n’ roll. While much of their fan base is founded on their multiplatinum albums and copious radio play, many just want to see five exceptional instrumentalists dive into extended jams, which the band is more than capable of accommodating.

If politeness kept the crowd in place during the weird sections, passion kept them around for the rest of the high-energy show. “Too Much” was deconstructed into a jerky-funk tune, a horn battle between guest trumpeter Rashawn Ross and sax player LeRoi Moore closed “Crush” and “Warehouse” ended with a bit of “Louie, Louie.”

For a second night, opener Sheryl Crow gave a solid performance, but she should have taken a cue from the headliners. Much of her set was repeated, which isn’t a sin, but compared to Dave Matthews Band’s nearly 40 songs over six hours, it was a let down.