At Long Last: DMB Live

On Wednesday night, the concert ticket that had been pinned to my bulletin board for several months was finally to put to good use. Myself and three friends piled into an old Honda Civic — college style! — and went down to St. Paul, Minnesota for the Dave Matthews Band show. You know it’s going to be a good show when the U.S. border guard, our waitress at supper, and the guy behind the hotel desk all recommend the band you’re going to see! I’ve never been to a show before where the whole city felt like it was anticipating it. DMB played to a sold-out crowd of 18,000 at the Xcel Energy Center. It was one of their last tour dates of the year before they take a break from touring in 2011, so I was really happy that we got to see them.

For those of you who don’t know, Dave Matthews Band is basically my all-time favourite. I listen to a lot of bands, so I never thought I’d be able to pick a favourite band — until I heard these guys. Their music is so alive and three dimensional. And while their studio albums consistently win critical acclaim, what they’re really known for is their energetic, lengthy, and often largely improvised live show. In fact, with the support of almost no radio play, Dave Matthews Band has sold more concert tickets than any other act in the 21st century.

They’re also a jam band first and foremost. At the show I attended, they basically doubled the length of all their songs with awesome instrumentals, including incredible solos from each band member on many songs. You could tell from their head nods that large portions of extended songs were improvisations — a testament to their musical ability and cohesion as a band. Drummer Carter Beauford is easily the most amazing drummer I have ever seen or heard, and Dave’s voice was note-perfect. People were dancing in the aisles. They played for just under 3 hours, and pulled out a couple rare songs as well. They’re known for set variety, and I must say they delivered. (On their current tour they’ve played, at last count, 102 different songs from their back catalogue). However, I was surprised that nothing from Busted Stuff was played.

Apparently members of their fan club held a huge block party before the show began. We could see the barricades as we walked into the venue. The lighting and video screens were kept to a tasteful minimum — not too sparse but not too distracting either. To top it all off the sound mix was great (a rarity at big arena shows; even rarer when there’s a big band). I think that a large part of what makes the band so great to watch is how much interaction there is between the members. They’re always smiling, fist-bumping, etc. It’s obvious they just love to play together, even after almost twenty years. As we drove home the next day, Chris and I both said, “I want to see them again.”

Here’s the set list. For me, standouts were “The Stone” (a slow-building, tense song that worked perfectly as an opener); “Stay or Leave” (great lyrics and much better instrumentation than the studio version); “Crash Into Me” and “Dancing Nancies” (old sing-along favourites); “Crush” (with a great bass solo intro); and Dave’s solo cover of the 200-year-old folk song “Rye Whiskey.”

  1. The Stone
  2. Warehouse
  3. One Sweet World
  4. Shake Me Like a Monkey
  5. Crush
  6. Stay or Leave
  7. So Right
  8. Seven
  9. #41
  10. Why I Am
  11. Dancing Nancies
  12. Crash Into Me
  13. Can’t Stop
  14. I Did It
  15. You and Me
  16. Water/Wine
  17. Jimi Thing
  18. Rye Whiskey [encore]
  19. Black Jack [encore]
  20. Ants Marching [encore]

You can see more pictures of the show here and here.

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