August 2nd, 2007
By Christopher John Treacy
Trust me: Even if you can’t stand Dave Matthews, going to see his live show will make you a believer.
Getting back into gear after a short break in their summer tour, Matthews and his band sounded inspired last night for the first of two gigs at the Tweeter Center in Mansfield.
Matthews took the stage - to mass hysteria - looking a bit pensive. Scratching his chin, arching his brow and pacing the stage, he carefully assessed the crowd before launching into a set of dark songs performed with purpose and feeling.
An unlikely opener, the dreamlike romanticism of “Crush” set the evening’s tone. The Dave Matthews Band made it work by dramatically stretching the mysterious, jazz-tinged melody, adding solos from electric violinist Boyd Tinsley and sax man LeRoi Moore straight away.
The brooding rocker “You Might Die Trying” was tempered by Butch Taylor’s delicate keyboard tinkling, and the old fan fave “Dancing Nancies” made for an excellent showcase of the DMB’s strengths. And “When the World Ends” benefited from Matthews’ unusually charged vocal delivery - in fact, his singing sounded as if he’s been taking greater care of himself.
Moore added his gorgeous clarinet to “Dream Girl” and the new “Idea of You,” for which Matthews switched to a teeny 12-string guitar. Another new song, the delicate folkie lullaby “Sister,” was performed solo acoustic while “#27” revealed itself as a pessimistic bluesy stomp.
Opener Xavier Rudd from Australia joined the band with his drone pipe (didgeridoo) for an exotic reading of “Don’t Drink the Water.”
From there the dark mood lifted a bit. Reaching back to 1994’s “Under the Table and Dreaming,” Matthews dusted off “Jimi Thing,” complete with a foray into Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.” “Crash” contained a few lines from Little Feat’s “Dixie Chicken,” and “Stay” closed the set on an up note before an encore, the new “Corn Bread.”
I’ve never been particularly enthused about Matthews’ music, but amidst the spirit of his ecstatic audience, and bearing witness to the amount of effort and energy he puts into a performance, it’s hard to find fault. A little restraint on the endless soloing might make for bigger payoffs. But on the other hand, if it ain’t broke . . .