Dave Matthews Band Returns to SPAC with Mind Blowing Sound
Dave Matthews Band (DMB) is in town for the weekend at Saratoga Performing Arts Center with two concerts July 12th and 13th. With a top-notch band of trained jazz musicians, and a cult-like following of kind fans, many of whom bring along their children, DMB is a consistent crowd pleaser each summer returning year after year to sold-out crowds at SPAC.
Night one of will be hard to top.
Opening with “Squirm,” DMB warmed up the crowd with a crescendo to peak energy right away. With a few quick words acknowledging Matthew’s love of Saratoga and gratitude for the crowd’s presence, the band was off to a fast and furious set of high energy and tremendous musicianship.
Part of the charm of Dave Matthews is his really ordinary, humble presentation. He looks like your neighbor next door. But he is a very, very, very talented musician, demonstrating vocal control and songwriting echoing the very core of the human experience. That type of talent attracts others of high talent, and his band has gelled with Tim Reynolds, a jazz guitarist with an exceptional resume of his own, Carter Beuford (rhythm and drums), Jeff Coffin (sax), Rashawn Ross (horns), Arthur “Buddy” Strong (keys/organ) and Stefan Lessard (bass).
The band members shared the spotlight in “Tripping Billies” as they would through much of the night. Dave’s grin when others excel on their instruments is contagious, spreading the goodwill and the good music through the night. After popular hit “Satellite” had the crowd crooning, Matthews’ and Beuford’s vocal calling back and forth opened “Minarets” with a magical vibe that somehow increased the crowd’s interest beyond the previous song. In a totally different style, DMB pulled off planned and controlled dissonance and pushed the crowd through to a high level of musical connection that is unique.
While Dave Matthews is the star and frontman of DMB, his voice is not always the center. His ability to blend his vocals and control of range allows him to sing as an instrument, rather than a soloist, for songs that spotlight alternative sounds and themes.
By “Crush,” Ross’ ability scream on trumpet while Reynold’s riffs on guitars called back and forth mesmerized the crowd. Because this wasn’t just a rock concert of popular hits; this was a concert with improvisation and jazz fusion musicianship that one doesn’t get to see very often.
DMB pushed “Jimi Thing” into “Back in Black,” and then a crowd-rousing “Stayin’ Alive” and “Fly Like an Eagle.” The band’s genre flexibility was mind-blowing, crossing generations of music as easily as stepping across the stage.
Quite possibly the high point of the night, however, was in “Everyday.” The audience, who had been singing along word for word, was able to sustain the background vocals, or comping, empowering the stage musicians to improvise and really show off on each instrument.
Dave Matthews’ can scat, by the way. And if you only listen to these musicians on the radio or Spotify, you might not know that all of them can play at their leisure whatever tunes are in their minds and hearts at the moment. Their improv sessions were thoroughly enjoyed by each other and those in the crowd. Dave at one point was looking at the organist after a solo with an appreciation reflective of awe.
The encore included Matthews’ passionate solo on “Some Devil,” an achingly beautiful showcase for his vocal range. The band rejoined him for a Dylan cover of “All Along the Watchtower.” The wildly dancing crowd approved of both.
During last night’s concert, the band members were joyful, excited to be sharing music with Saratoga Springs and each other. The songs were about being human, about love and childhood and caring for each other. The timbre of the instruments merged together with each other and the audience to create a wall of sound that was beyond one genre. They were able to rock. But they also had a folk sound, and a roots sound, and of course a jazz sound.
Night one will be hard to top. But DMB will be back at SPAC tonight, improving the impossibly awesome. Go and be warned: your mind will be blown.
Squirm, Tripping Billies, Stay or Leave, Do You Remember, Satellite, Minarets, Crush, Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin), You Might Die Trying, Where Are You Going, Funny the Way It Is, Joyride, You & Me, The Song that Jane Likes, Water Into Wine, Jimi Thing>Back in Black>Stayin’ Alive>Fly Like An Eagle, Shame Me Like a Monkey, Everyday, Ants Marching.
Encore: Some Devil, All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan cover).