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DMB a familiar favorite

August 2nd, 2006


He is the people’s jazzy folk-rocker, and he has been for the last decade.

Dave Matthews made his annual summer stop at Riverbend Tuesday, and as it is every year, the place was sold out, meaning 20,500 Dave Matthews Band devotees under that jazzy folk-rock spell.

And how is this two-hour-plus installment different from the DMB’s others as we look back 10 years? It’s a hard question to answer, so let’s talk about the weather.

The place was hot – very muggy, very uncomfortable. Between songs, Matthews wrapped his arms around himself and pretended to shiver, as if he were cold. (Stop it, Dave, you’re killing me!)

Now that the noteworthy details of the night have been revealed, we turn to the music, which was not presented differently than the year before or the year before that. There were long jams, and there were really long jams, like the show opener, a 25-minute version of “Seek Up.” A show that begins with a half-hour jam going nowhere can be a frightening tone-setter.

But as luck would have it, “Seek Up” would be the worst of the night’s really long jams. “Warehouse” could have been another, but it was redeemed by a truly hot salsa coda. The two-man brass section of LeRoi Moore (reeds) and Rashawn Ross (trumpet) punctuated the salsa rhythm. Matthews even threw in the chorus of “Louie Louie” as the band rocked it Cuban-style.

The crowd’s favorite stretched-out portion of the show might have been the pairing the two of his most popular songs, “So Much to Say” and “Too Much,” which he and his band bridged with a succession of drum (Carter Beauford), bass (Stefan Lessard), keyboard (Butch Taylor), violin (Boyd Tinsley) and acoustic guitar (Matthews) solos.

Since Matthews’ jams aren’t time-and-space altering like those of the DMB’s forebears the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band, he was better off keeping it short. Some examples were the poppy hit ballad “Crash into Me” and “Hunger for the Great Light,” a straightforward number played forcefully by a band filled with musicians otherwise prone to showiness.

The night’s most disappointing moment could have been its best, when Warren Haynes from both the Allman Brothers Band and the opening act Gov’t Mule came to the stage with his guitar in hand. The possibilities for a great cover song that could showcase Haynes’ talent were endless. Instead the choice was a long and boring version “Jimi Thing” with an unnecessary crowd sing-along of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” thrown in the mix.

As for Gov’t Mule’s warmup set, things were no better. Yes, Haynes is a great guitarist. You don’t play with the Allmans if you’re bad. But as a singer and bandleader he couldn’t be blander, and the Mule’s show was 50 minutes of faceless electric-guitar jam.