Dave Matthews Band potent in Irvine
The group powered through a mighty three-hour set at Verizon, debuting two new songs
Opening with the funk-tinged "Seven," Matthews and his band never let up. That song showcased a three-horn attack alongside Tim Reynolds' incredible fretwork, though throughout the night every member of the ensemble had multiple chances to shine. Yet, whereas many jam bands blessed with such skilled musicians merely use extended songs to showcase their talents, with DMB the song is never eclipsed.
|Violinist Boyd Tinsley performs in Irvine.|
On "If Only," one of several pieces from Away from the World featured this night, things started out relatively quiet, Matthews singing in his beautiful falsetto accompanied by his acoustic guitar. But as artfully as a celebrated symphony orchestra, other colors were added as the song went on, and before long the mighty rhythm section (drummer Carter Beauford and bassist Stefan Lessard), the powerful horns (Jeff Coffin on sax, Rashawn Ross on trumpet) plus Reynolds, signature violinist Boyd Tinsley and the star himself were roaring. Many groups might have concluded with such a dynamic shift, but DMB then proceeded to scale things down again, to a bewitching quiet, before ending the gem.
Matthews' studio recordings have been beloved and popular, but it remains at concerts like this where the band shines brightest. "Crush" began with Lessard doing the heavy lifting before a superb fiddle solo from Tinsley segued into a lead guitar solo and explosive finish, providing myriad moods that delighted the swaying and grooving crowd. Throughout the show, impressive lighting arrays and projected videos on a rear screen added subliminal power.
Of the songs performed for the first time (according to online die-hards who keep tabs on such things), the blues-rocking "Rooftop" was particularly memorable. A remarkably straightforward rocker for DMB, the song's Bad Company-esque chorus was a timely reminder of just how powerful the band can be even when stripped of its funk and jazz and world-music coverings. The other previously unheard song, "Snow Outside," is a beautiful slice of country-folk Americana that gradually built to a modernist jazz blast before returning to a potent hush.
Guitar virtuoso Jordan was able to utilize his impressive two-handed tapping technique for a pair of jams in the middle of the set. His unique style blended seamlessly with the band's fullness, especially on "The Dreaming Tree," where his guitar almost sounded like keyboards, adding otherworldly textures to the piece.
Considering that 2012 marks 50 years since the release of Bob Dylan's debut recording, few tributes will likely be as mighty (if unintentional) as DMB's epic performance of "All Along the Watchtower" that culminated this gig. Whether it was a tribute to ol' Zimmy or merely an excuse to all-out rock, its forcefulness shook the night.
Few concert experiences are perfect, but this night's only poor grades come courtesy of dim attendees who clearly weren't real fans of the band and were on hand Saturday night simply for the party. When a nonstop chatterbug behind me was finally asked to shut up, she responded that she was at a concert and wouldn't be quiet, then proceeded to blabber about that for 15 minutes.
How do I know she's not a real fan? She (thankfully) left the show early. Also stupefying: the woman to my right who arrived late and then glared at her smartphone for most of the night, missing most of this excellent show.
Dave Matthews Band at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, Irvine, Sept. 8, 2012Main set: Seven / Eh Hee / If Only / You Never Know / Crush / Rooftop / Everyday / Mercy / Rhyme & Reason (with Stanley Jordan) / The Dreaming Tree (with Jordan and trombone player Lasim Richards) / Don't Drink the Water / Digging a Ditch / Snow Outside / Spaceman / Cornbread (with Richards) / The Riff / Shake Me Like a Monkey / Two Step