Dave Matthews Band Fans Eat Up Pop Treats At Cincy Tour Stop

DMB largely dispensed with the long, multi-solo jams upon which its reputation was built.

CINCINNATI — Imagine Phish coming out and playing nothing but

five-minute pop songs. Kinda blows the whole idea of a "jam band," right?

Now, imagine if they did that and their audience didn't pelt them with eggs,

but ate it up like it was the ultimate jam.

That's what Dave Matthews' fans did Thursday night at his band's sold-out

show at Riverbend Music Center. In a nearly three-hour set, the Matthews

Band dispensed, for the most part, with the long, multi-solo jams upon which

its reputation was built and stuck to the more pop-oriented, concise

arrangements found on the new Busted Stuff and its predecessor, Everyday. Pop for the DMB, that is, which meant songs averaging five to eight minutes in length.

From the raucous applause the 18,000-plus fans rained down on the Virginia

band, you'd have thought every song was as expansive as the night's opener,

"Crush."

Sounding like an orchestra tuning up, the group's members each eased into the

lazy, jazzy groove as it picked up volume with violinist Boyd Tinsley

stepping up to take the first, Cajun-spiced, solo of the night. Though the

13-minute opener featured a thrilling drum and saxophone duel between Carter

Beauford and too-cool horn man LeRoi Moore, the extended jam was one of only

two long rambles by the band during the show — the other not coming

until the nearly 20-minute set-closer.

In between, fans got the nimble funk folk of "What Would You Say," the

slightly menacing, indolent drawl of Everyday's "When the World Ends" and

the '50s-doo-wop-meets-skronky-jazz of "The Stone." The latter featured the

patented interplay between Tinsley — grinding away at his violin as if

joyfully sawing logs — and Beauford, whose slightly off-kilter beats were

always just a step or two behind or in-between Matthews' vocals.

Even new songs such as the single "Grey Street" were treated by the crowd with the same enthusiasm as such classics

as "Dancing Nancies." In fact, some of the loudest applause of the night was

for the title track from Everday, an album many fans rejected because

of its too-clean pop sheen. As Tinsley pumped out a funky wah-wah violin

solo, the crowd erupted for the breezy pop soul tune, accented

by Matthews' signature falsetto crooning and his acrobatic, emotive eyebrows,

which got more action than the Rock's over the course of the evening.

Hopping between their jazz and pop sides most of the night, the group also

paid homage to Matthews' South African heritage with the bouncy, township

jive beats of the unreleased song "Loving Wings."

While Matthews kept his emotions in check for most of the evening — he even

refrained from his usual knock-kneed dancing in place — the singer got

visibly worked up during a nearly 10-minute version of "Bartender." Mixing

Tinsley's droning violin with a martial rhythm from Beauford and a walloping

bass thump from Stefan Lessard, the song picked up steam as Matthews shouted

"Bartender please!" over and over, the audience members lifting their hands as if

signaling for another round. Guest keyboardist Butch Taylor played a Bruce

Hornsby-esque gospel blues piano vamp that melted into a piercing

pennywhistle solo from Moore as the song eventually broke down into a

thumping, spare rhythm.

Matthews pulled out his electric guitar for the

Calypso-flavored "Fool to Think," as the group took on the sound of a jam

band of a different stripe. The mix of electric guitar and keening synths

gave the song a whiff of Rush's prog rock sound, which didn't seem to throw

the audience off, since it quickly busted into full noodle dancing mode for

the band's drawn-out set-ending take on the jamgrass tune "Two Step."

Hell, Matthews got so into it he even played a rare guitar solo, a brief

flamenco-inspired couple of notes that floated in the breeze near the end of

Tinsley's mandolin-like violin plucking frenzy and an extended showdown

between Taylor's boogie-woogie piano and Beauford's military-style drumming.

Even though a majority of the crowd seemed to be fresh out of college, maybe

even high school, fans ate up the five and six-minute jams as much as the

bookending longer ones, perhaps proving Matthews' point that you can grow and

change without losing or alienating a notoriously rabid fanbase.

"I was a little surprised they didn't jam as much as they used to," said

superfan Julie Whaley, 41, of Kansas City, Kansas. The owner of a "DMB Fan" license

plate — who stayed in Cincinnati an extra three days with her two young sons

to catch the show — said she was just as happy to hear more songs than less

drawn-out ones. "They did enough jamming to satisfy the fans and they didn't

seem to mind all the shorter, newer songs."

Dave Matthews Band set list:

  • "Crush"

  • "What Would You Say"

  • "When the World Ends"

  • "Captain"

  • "The Stone"

  • "Grey Street"

  • "You Never Know"

  • "Everyday"

  • "Loving Wings"

  • "Where Are You Going"

  • "Big Eyed Fish"

  • "Bartender"

  • "Dancing Nancies"

  • "Proudest Monkey"

  • "Satellite"

  • "Fool to Think"

  • "Two Step"

    Encore:

  • "Digging a Ditch"

  • "All Along the Watchtower"

For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.