If you squinted just enough, the scene last Friday at Perfect Vodka Amphitheatre looked like a cross between Woodstock and Coachella, complete with a mud runway, flower crowns, palm trees, tie-dye shirts and a parade of rubber boots.
Such was vibe throughout the first night of back-to-back concerts by Dave Matthews Band, a show upstaged early on by the weather. Thanks to the threat of lightning, the group’s annual summer stop in West Palm Beach was delayed by 45 minutes; a relentless downpour, meanwhile, refused to let up until well into the band’s second set.
Not that DMB’s hardcore fans seemed to mind. While a handful of concert-goers greeted fans walking into the open-air setting with offers to sell their tickets (one man informed me he was “too drunk to be this wet”), the rain didn’t dampen the spirits of those who turned Perfect Vodka into a shirt-and-shoes optional venue.
Baseball may be the quintessential American summer pastime, but for fans of DMB, seeing the seven-piece group on tour every year is the best way to mark the passing of the warm weather months. A common request overheard at the Will Call booth included concert-goers looking to pick up their tickets for “tonight and tomorrow night.” Inside, the scene looked like a timeline of DMB tours, with many fans proudly donning their concert shirts from the past 20-plus years (albeit under their clear rain ponchos).
Part of the allure for those that follow its tours throughout the States is the band’s ever-evolving set list, which features old favorites, new tracks and covers thrown in—including as the encore. On this night, DMB started off with acoustic interpretations of its discography. After an intermission that featured an ill-fitting rap music soundtrack, the band returned with dry clothes (the envy!), electric guitars and graphics to accompany its plugged-in second set. With a sound unlike anything on Top 40 radio, DMB continues to carve out a niche in folk, rock, pop and indie music. The band’s musicianship is second to none, with a sound distinctly its own thanks to a precise weaving of brass and string instruments through tracks like “Funny The Way It Is,” “Crush” and “What Would You Say.”
At times, it felt as though Matthews and his band mates were playing only for themselves, with several extended solos slowing down the pace of the show. Each song seemed to take longer than the last to find its final note, and fewer tall cans of beer were being raised with each passing solo. When fans start using those lengthy solos to find an open bathroom stall, it may be a sign that it’s time to return to the chorus.
DMB’s drawn-out time between songs and lack of banter with the crowd recalled an opening act more than a seasoned band with some two decades of touring under its belt. Aside from an occasional comment from Matthews about the rain stopping (it hadn’t) and what smelled like skunky weed (it did), the dialogue between the front man and the crowd was essentially nonexistent.
In a testament to fans of DMB’s music, concertgoers seemed OK with just about anything the band did or didn’t say. They were there for the music—and, perhaps, the second-hand smoke. Either way, the die-hards seemed satisfied.
A Whiter Shade of Pale
Grace is Gone
Funny The Way It Is
Old Dirt Hill
Drive In Drive Out
The Song That Jane Likes
Black and Blue Bird
Belly Belly Nice
Death On The High Seas
What Would You Say
All Along The Watch Tower
Photos by: Ron Elkman (ronelkman.com)