Shouting into the Storm Rantings, ramblings, observations and musings from the insipid to the sublime

Monday, December 23, 2002 :::
Dave Matthews Band, MCI Center, Washington D.C.

I never thought I'd be at a DMB concert, and be thinking about Pete Townshend of The Who. To paraphrase, Pete once said "It isn't the adoring crowd that lets you know you are doing well. It's the one guy in the middle of room with his arms folded, looking at you like 'OK, entertain me'. If I can make him enjoy the music, it's a good show." While I wasn't that combative towards the band, they certainly had a nay-sayer up in Section 411, Row N last night. And, even though I was willing and able to see the light and feel the groove, I left with much the same opinion of the band as when I entered the building.

They opened up with a perfectly serviceable "Don't Drink the Water", which brought peels of screams from the crowd. The mix was bad even by arena standards, and Dave's vocals were lost in the mix for most of the song. The song ended with it's dark climax, and I was ready for more. The more I wanted never really materialized, though. Long pauses between songs halted whatever momentum might have been built. To the uniniated, a string of mid-tempo, unmemorable songs made up the first hour of the show. No jams, no segues, and not much energy from the stage.

And that might have been my biggest problem with the show. I like to see effort from my bands, a visual manifestation of whatever they are feeling while playing. With the exception of Boyd on the fiddle, and the occasional foot sliding by Dave, you'd be hard pressed to see if the others were focusing on the music or their tax returns. The sax player suffered the most on this. Having to play in front of microphones(didn't they have the money for wireless clip mics for the bell of the saxophones?), with wearing shades, he at times looked like a cigar store Indian. Which is too bad, because sax players have one of the great stock "I'm playing my ass of" faces to fall back on - it resembles what I can only imagine the face made by men passing a kidney stone.

Not all was lost at the show. There was a nice jam to end "Crush", with Boyd racing between band members, egging them on to jam harder. And the final song of the night, "Two Step" produced some very nice dynamics...but no soaring fiddle solo. Other than that, it really felt like a Just Another Night on Tour show.

One more note - the crowd. I've been reluctant to give DMB a try live because of what I call the Cult of Dave. Many fans I've talked to get this glazed over look in their eyes when someone dares to suggest that the last two DMB albums are less than groundbreaking. "Dude, it's Dave, man." is the usual response. And there were plenty of these there at the show. It was also, for a jam band show, one of the most unfunky crowds I've seen. Almost like everyone stopped by the Gap or Old Navy to get the latest khaki and Izod shirts, but only in cool hippie earth tones. And the crowd roared at *everything*, from the slightest facial twitch on the video screen to the simple act of Dave picking up his guitar at the beginning of the show. I saw one girl about 13 years old in tears because she, and I quote, "Saw Dave on the screen. It was really Dave." I'm sure she soiled her flower-print cotton undies at the first note he played, too. In short, I felt like I was the only sober guy at a party of 18,000, where everyone knew each other, and they all knew the inside jokes.

::: posted by Chris at 1:02 PM

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Rantings, ramblings, observations and musings from the insipid to the sublime

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