There was so much to love about Dave Matthews Band’s incredible show Sunday night (Sept. 13, 2009) at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. The 155-minute set undoubtedly ranks as one of the best gigs ever staged at the Irvine venue.
Touring in connection with the troupe’s most recent album, the excellent Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, and coming on the heels of the group’s first shows at the Greek Theatre and a stop in Chula Vista, singer-guitarist Matthews and his six-man outfit performed most of songs off that release, as well as epic versions of material from earlier albums and an infectious cover of Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” that, well, brought down the house.
Long recognized as one of modern rock’s best live ensembles, the group has a surprisingly simple secret to its power. DMB’s lineup of regular members and touring players explode on stage without ever losing their sonic footing and, more importantly, without ever letting the song itself slip away.
Despite their individual virtuoso skills, there wasn’t a single moment when they didn’t play as a team. Extended drum solos tend to kill a performance, whereas Carter Beauford’s showcase enlivened the momentum of the night. Typically, a guitarist as skilled as Tim Reynolds can be a distraction when the nuances of a song are at odds with blazing fretwork. Yet, throughout performances of “Seven” and “Funny the Way It Is” early in the set and “Why I Am” later on, his superlative skills only enhanced the proceedings.
Saxophonist Jeff Coffin (like Reynolds, a touring member of the group) and violinist Boyd Tinsley had equally strong moments where their work shined across DMB’s 20-song set.
If there were any kind of common formula revealed on Sunday before an enthusiastic, near-capacity crowd at Verizon, it was how DMB might launch a song with an instrument or two positioned around Matthews’ emotive vocals. The song would then build to a blazing finish with plenty of impressive improvisation offering along the way. “Funny the Way It Is,” “So Damn Lucky” and “Squirm” were among many that flourished thanks to that approach.
However, the band occasionally proved that formula wrong. On the instantly charging “Why I Am” and night-ending “Ants Marching,” DMB put the pedal to the metal from the get-go.
Pity the fools who left the show early to beat the traffic.
San Diego rock quintet Switchfoot pleased the crowd with a set of solid modern-rock originals (notably the bluesy “Dirty Second Hands” and the hard-rocking “Meant to Live”) as well as a mostly faithful cover of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.”
Set list: Dave Matthews Band at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, Irvine, Sept. 13, 2009Main set: Bartender / Stay or Leave / Seven / Spaceman / Funny The Way It Is / So Damn Lucky / Everyday / Shake Me Like a Monkey / Alligator Pie / Burning Down the House / Jimi Thing / Why I Am / Squirm / Dancing Nancies / You And Me / Two Step
Encore: Baby Blue / Granny / Ants Marching