Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
The ticket stub read, “Jam Presents: Dave Matthews Band with Gregg Allman.” And lest there be any doubt, Dave and friends delivered the “jam” with enough conviction to give a Tuesday night a convincingly Saturday night feel.
In a strategic maneuver perhaps based on Kepler's laws of planetary motion, the stage and lighting rigs were positioned between center and left field, allowing the moon's elliptical rise to emerge and escalate dead center behind the stage as dusk set in, making a backdrop worthy of a venue postcard, with the downtown skyline in full view. The park's spacious design also minimized instrument repercussions that often cause a slap back echoing within outdoor venues not specifically designed for concerts. Another bonus.
Just as the sun began to set, the Gregg Allman Band, introduced by Matthews himself, emerged looking healthy and happy. He led his six cohorts through “Good Clean Fun,” “I'm No Angel,” and returned to the stage about six numbers into DMB's set to play the Allman Brothers soulful lullaby, “Sweet Melissa.”
All said, in the 74th gig of a 77-date tour, DMB didn't show any signs of fatigue whatsoever. The show kicked off with the steady, tribal pulse of “Don't Drink the Water,” a haunting narrative told from the Manifest Destiny mindset, warning Native Americans to either relocate or die where they stand. Another standout number was “Shake Me Like A Monkey,” from the band's latest “Big Whiskey and the Groo Grux King,” which has a parallel vibe to Cameo's 1986 smash, “Word Up,” but with tons more layer, depth and musicianship. Midway through, the band did “Jimi Thing,” from 1994's “Under the Table and Dreaming,” built around the memorable chorus, “if you could keep me floating, if only for awhile.” If that song inspired crowd cohesion, then its successor, “Burning Down the House,” from Talking Heads' 1983 album “Speaking in Tongues,” brought the house down. Thankfully, we were spared “Satellite” and “What Would You Say.”
Matthews and each of his six accomplices are storied, top-shelf players. Boyd Tinsley destroys all preconceived notions of what a violin should sound like, much less the musical realm he accompanies and supports with it. Drummer Carter Beauford may come across as busy and flashy to some, but his trademark continuous fills, breaks, cymbal finesse, syncopation and precision footwork never seemed over-embellished last week. In another setting, he might have to modify the attack a bit, but with bassist Stephan Lessard's fluid, in-the-pocket execution, the two remain a bulletproof rhythm section.
Jeff Coffin, the two-time Grammy recipient known for his work with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, righteously captured the melodic spirit of the late LeRoi Moore, but blew his own signature across every song with utter freedom. Touring members also included Tim Reynolds on electric guitar and trumpeter Rashawn Ross. Both added well-placed layers of depth and dimension.
Thanks to big-screen projections from three stage positions and stellar sound engineering, especially for an outdoor venue, the crowd couldn't help but feel a part of the show, as every note played seemed a natural extension of the band's emotions. From grim, focused and all-business demeanors, to the laughs, winks and nods of total camaraderie, Dave and co. let it all hang out, especially when encoring with Bob Dylan's “(It's All Over Now) Baby Blue,” and “All Along the Watchtower.”
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