Stepping out on his own isn't hard for Dave Matthews
Boston, Dec. 16, 2003
By Jeffrey B. Remz
BOSTON - Stepping out on your own away from a band setting isn't necessarily always the easiest or indeed most commercially satisfying move.
Just ask Sir Mick Jagger how life was musically without Keith, Ronnie and Charlie in tow.
But the results seem to be a lot different for Dave Matthews with his new solo album, "Some Devil" and a nation-wide tour now underway.
While the songs in the DMB configuration seem to be brighter and breezier both musically and lyrically - there seems to be a lot of hope and optimism in those lyrics - there is less the jazzy feel going solo and darker lyrics as well.
And in concert, fortunately, an intense Matthews, playing before a nearly sold out arena, seems to combine the best of both worlds by putting his stamp on the festivities.
In other words, this was not just a rehash of a Dave Matthews Band concert with a few little different players accompanying Matthews.
And that was a good thing since nine of the songs were from "Some Devil."
Like any concert worth its sweat, the music was punchier, far livelier than on the disc where it tends to be in cruise control a bit too long. And instead of the jazzy orientation, Matthews also veered often towards a funky sound.
While not every song worked - a few just didn't have enough meat on the hoof and tended not be going anywhere in particular - Matthews and friends tended to jam far more often in the early going, getting a good groove going without being interminable.
His backing band was spearheaded by guitarist Trey Anastasio of Phish fame. Anastasio clearly was energized by doing something different musically. His fairly tight guitar playing added some oomph to the songs while never overpowering them.
For those looking for some connection with DMB music, Matthews provided that early on. Along with guitarist Tim Reynolds beside him, Matthews opened by sitting on a stool, singing five DMB songs including "Crush" and a nice version of "Where Are You Going." Reynolds was a powerhouse on acoustic, sometimes using a slide to good effect.
After a break, Matthews and band then hit heavily into "Some Devil," but including a number of generally well done covers. What fit best were songs like "Up on Cripple Creek," The Band song sung by Anastasio and a stellar, muscular reading of The Beatles' "Hey Bulldog" with lots of powerhouse drumming from Brady Blade Jr.
Matthews clearly was enjoying himself throughout. He may not have the greatest voice going - it's always a bit on the thin sounding side, though it proved more lively as the evening wore on - but with help from his band mates along with opener Emmylou Harris on Bob Dylan's "Oh Sister" (Harris actually sang the backing vocals back about 28 years ago and hadn't sung it since. Understandably, she required a lyric sheet.) and other songs, the vibe was strong enough to overcome that.
The encore featured Matthews and Anastasio ("my good friend" Matthews must have said about three or four times during the night) trading songs of "Everyday" from DMB and "Waste" from Phish before pulling the whole band out for a good, but not quite funky enough version of "Will It Go Round in Circles."
While never easy stepping out front, Matthews generally pulled it off without a hitch.
Harris opened the evening with a set of rootsy/country influenced rock. Good thing she played it harder as well because it's doubtful that Harris and her very pretty voice would have been able to fill up the arena with a softer sound.