[NOTE: The Week Ahead will run on Tuesday this week.]
Green rental chairs, tallboys and iconic fairy tattoos were a few clues that Dave Matthews Band was at Perfect Vodka Amphitheatre. Die-hard groupies mingled with DMB newbies, all awaiting the start of the band’s annual tour stop in West Palm Beach.
Unlike last year, which was delayed by rain, the Friday night sky was painted in various shades of blue, pink and orange. The humidity was palpable and lingered in a hazy screen of smoke plumes rising up from crowds scattered on the lawn.
(Photos by Ron Elkman)
At 8:25 p.m., DMB walked onstage and began its first of two nights in West Palm Beach with a laid-back, bluesy rendition of “When the World Ends.” After playing only a few notes, the masses responded with clapping, cheering and singing. Without pause, DMB then launched into “Stay or Leave,” which the audience seemed to think was a bit too early.
A brief moment of silence followed, and Matthews approached the mike. In a deep, accented voice, he thanked the crowd for coming out and then said, “This is the song that Jane likes,” which inevitably cued the first notes of the song by that name.
DMB, which is known for its constantly changing set lists, did not disappoint. Occasionally, the band would pause for a group huddle, which made me wonder if they were changing the set list or sticking to the original lineup. Nevertheless, the agenda consisted almost entirely of throwback favorites such as “Why I Am,” “Warehouse,” “Jimi Thing,” “Seven,” and “#41,” to name a few. The selection was well received, and the energy from the sellout crowd was reflected in the group’s enthusiasm.
In traditional DMB fashion, long instrumental solos extended several songs by five to eight minutes. “Death on the High Seas” featured Matthews soloing on piano, with drummer Carter Beauford and saxophonist Jeff Coffin joining on the second verse. “Grey Street” and “Samurai Cop” received similar treatment, and Beauford and Coffin stole the limelight for a quick minute.
But the two biggest solos of the evening came toward the end of the set. Tim Reynolds rocked an electric guitar solo, improvising as quickly as his fingers could fly. The other notable solo was the opening of “Say Goodbye,” which featured Coffin on flute and Beauford on drums. The duo played for about five minutes, and as they changed rhythm, the lights onstage blinked to match.
In terms of technical performance, the sound and lighting effects were outstanding. There was an audible groan from onlookers when Matthews joked about the “chilly weather,” and several rounds of applause when he thanked the crowd for its support throughout the performance. Reds, blues, greens and yellows were reflected in the stage lights throughout the set and changed depending on the mood of the song.
Sadly, the small video boards to the left and right of the main stage at Perfect Vodka faded out about a third of the way through the concert and did not return. But it was only a minor hiccup in an otherwise memorable performance.
For an encore, DMB played “Sister” and “You Might Die Trying” before leaving the stage just after 11:15 p.m.
Overall, it was a DMB concert for the books. Seasoned fans and new recruits alike happily left the amphitheater, many tailgating post-concert and beginning the countdown until they return again.