Someday, I suppose, I might see a Dave Matthews Band
performance that I actually enjoy -- or that inspires something besides
revulsion, at least. But it hasn't happened yet, which is one reason
I'm not going to Mr. Matthews' show at Yon Shed tonight. Below, a couple of reviews of long-ago Matthews shows in Raleigh.
By David Menconi, News & Observer
Aug. 31, 1998
Raleigh -- In 15 years of reviewing concerts, I've had a pen conk out on me twice. The first time was at the Dave Matthews Band concert in 1995. The second time was Saturday night at Walnut Creek - again while reviewing the Dave Matthews Band.
Maybe it was on account of the near-tropical heat: The air was so steamy it seemed to coagulate as you walked through it. But I like to think I was only following Matthews' lead and givin' my instrument a workout, because this was a show that offered little in the way of restraint.
It did, however, offer up lots of flash-bang virtuosity. No doubt about it, the Dave Matthews Band is the last word in technical facility. Carter Beauford is the Michael Jordan of rock drummers, a capital-p Player, and saxophonist Leroi Moore and violinist Boyd Tinsley aren't far behind.
Saturday night, they went at it for 2 1/2 hours, and the crowd loved every minute of it. All it took to get the crowd shrieking was for Matthews to walk onstage to introduce the opening act, the Getaway People. Later, Matthews and band got a thunderous ovation as they came onstage; as they stood around tuning up; as they began and ended each song; and for every note of every solo.
The first song set the tone, going on for close to 20 minutes with a full complement of instrumental noodling before the first verse. Matthews doesn't rush into anything, especially when it comes to getting to the point.
Song after song began with his staccato acoustic guitar jangle and a yelped verse, then turned into protracted solo duels between violin and saxophone with no quarter asked or given. Over the course of 16 songs, a sameness began to creep in - too much bridge and not enough hook.
Then there was Matthews himself, who seems like a perfectly nice young man. He had his endearing moments, leading a "Happy Birthday" sing-along for his road manager and doing a goofy soft-shoe shuffle during his band's protracted solo breaks.
But Matthews has a singing voice that would make a lab rat try to cover its ears. Take Sting at his most overbearing, add the histrionic mannerisms of Blood Sweat & Tears mouthpiece David Clayton-Thomas, then imagine the singer doubled over with gas pains. That's Matthews, who is not a vocalist so much as an assortment of vocal tics - especially when he went into lecture mode on "Don't Drink the Water."
There were moments when everything clicked, but rarely for the 10 minutes or so it took the band to get through a song. One of the times when groove, hook and virtuosity all connected and stuck was the third song, "Stay (Wasting Time)," with a hook that wasn't to be denied (plus a sax line closer to actual funk than elevator jazz).
As for the rest of the show, Matthews himself summed it up with the pre-encore closer: a song called "Too Much."
The song remained the same
By David Menconi, News & Observer
July 28, 1995
RALEIGH - You know that old saying about how if you don't like the weather, wait a half-hour and it will change? The pride of Charlottesville, Va., the Dave Matthews Band twists this adage a bit: If you don't like the song they're playing, well, get used to it because it will be about a half-hour until the group gets to the next one.
OK, that's an exaggeration. But not by much. Wednesday night at Walnut Creek Amphitheatre, Matthews and his band needed more than 2 1/2 hours to get through 16 songs, which works out to nine-plus minutes per song (an almost Phish-like average). Let's just say that no solo was left unturned.
It was not a show for the linear-minded. Each song had a structure not unlike a snake that had swallowed a model train set: a beginning and ending sandwiched around convoluted midsections with multiple solos. Their meandering grooves morphed from jazz to progressive rock to bluegrass to country with dizzying speed. The philosophy seemed to be that anything worth doing is worth running into the ground, which burned the hooks to songs like "Satellite" and "Ants Marching" beyond recognition.
One unusual aspect about the Dave Matthews Band is that almost none of the instrumental histrionics come from the guitar. For the most part, frontman Matthews was content to strum while scat-singing. The overall effect was similar to Sting sitting in with the Grateful Dead on a world-beat bender.
All five members of the band certainly displayed incredible technical facility, especially monster violinist Boyd Tinsley. Even more impressive was drummer Carter Beauford, who has the best combination of steadiness and flash this side of Steve Gadd. When one of Tinsley's country-gone-haywire solos locked in with Beauford's rolling Weather Report flourishes, they whipped the crowd of about 10,000 into a frenzy.
During the past year, Matthews has gone from playing the 2,500-capacity Ritz to headlining Walnut Creek - and also into the upper reaches of the charts with their double-platinum "Under the Table and Dreaming" album. Matthews is now undisputed king of the noodlehead set, and "Dreaming" is the soundtrack of choice in fraternity houses from coast to coast. They drew exactly the sort of crowd you would expect to Walnut Creek, a well-oiled (and well-coiffed) young mob who let no lyrical reference to drugs or "partyin' " pass without howls of approval.
Curiously, they didn't play their recent hit "What Would You Say." Instead, Matthews encored with an interminable version of "All Along the Watchtower," which went on for more than 25 minutes. It certainly fit the rest of the show.