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Smooth Dave Matthews Band gives Denver a chemistry lesson

September 13th, 2006

By Mark Brown, Rocky Mountain News

The Dave Matthews Band sauntered onto stage and took its time getting settled into its first song. The crowd didn't mind. It wasn't a concert so much at times as just hanging out. The crowd savored the band, and the band gave back the same vibe. Neither side was in any particular hurry to start or end each song.

It was quite a different feel than when the band was here last summer, playing four intense concerts at Red Rocks (a stand Matthews alluded to early on, thanking the crowd for joining him "up on the hill there"). Tuesday night's show at the Pepsi Center was a high-tech affair with great screens and effects that never took away from the musicianship onstage (and it's worth noting that Matthews offered all this at a fraction of the price other artists do, with tickets at $55).

DMB has had chemistry from the start, but rather than be jaded after a decade, the band may be in its best place ever. Its high level of musicianship seemed effortless and telepathic; the band now rivals Tom Petty's Heartbreakers as the nation's tightest yet loosest group. Matthews, in an interview last week with the Rocky Mountain News, said the relationships within the band are more creative than ever, with plans to get into the studio soon to get out a new album for 2007.

It's a claim that was backed up onstage. The band is back in a writing mode, so there were new songs sprinkled in with the classics that the crowd has come to expect, including Crash Into Me and an epic version of Satellite where the big-screen close-ups finally showed just how difficult and intricate the guitar parts are on that song. Dream Girl, which seemed a bit forced in the set last year, this time was a sublime crowd favorite.

Some in the audience were familiar with the new unreleased songs via the magic of the Internet. I Do It For You had the feel of a Matthews classic; another new Latin-tinged song that I didn't catch the name of sounded a little too close to the theme from Bewitched.

The band plays again tonight; a few tickets may be released by the time you read this.

Opening the show was Robert Randolph and the Family Band, getting more road exposure before the release of the band's new disc, Colorblind, this month. Randolph, a wicked pedal-steel player, also played some new material, including a cover of Jesus is Just Alright that Eric Clapton helped him arrange in the studio. Randolph headlines the Fillmore Auditorium on Halloween night.


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