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Concert review: Rock-solid Dave Matthews Band plays two shows in one at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena

July 16, 2014

By Tom Szaroleta, The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville



July 16--Full disclosure: I'm not a Dave Matthews Band fan. I don't have anything against them; it's just that I never took the time to get to know their music. What I've heard was OK but if I never saw the band play live, I'd be alright with that.

Which put me in a distinct minority Tuesday night when I found myself at a Dave Matthews Band concert. The place was jam-packed with people who knew every word of the 25 or so songs the band played in a set that started a little after 7 and ran until just before 11.

So here's what I learned:

-- The band is absurdly talented, particularly the rhythm section of bassist Stefan Lessard and drummer Carter Beauford, who is the hardest working guy you'll ever see on a stage. The horn section is rock solid (and bonus points to trumpeter Rashawn Ross for wearing a Sen'Derrick Marks Jaguars jersey), guitarist Tim Reynolds plays a huge range of styles and violin player Boyd Tinsley is a show-stopper. If there's a weak link in the band -- and boy, am I gonna get hate mail for saying this -- it's Matthews himself, whose gravelly voice can spiral off into falsettos at inopportune times. He is, however, a perfect fit for the band -- I couldn't see him playing with another band, or anyone else fronting this one.

-- Matthews is a heck of a songwriter. His songs ranged from folky to borderline country to blue-eyed soul to flat-out rockers. They could be pretty, they could be funky, they could blow your hair back.

-- The band played two radically different sets. For the first hour or so, they were all acoustic, playing in a tight grouping on the stage. They played some of their best songs -- "Bartender," "Two Step," "Tripping Billies," "What Would You Say" in this part of the show. It was an interesting way to start because it was impossible to categorize -- there were too many horns for it to be country, too many acoutic guitars to call it jazz and the violin and trumpet weren't exactly rock. It was none of those styles and all of them, at the same time. The second, and much longer, set was clearly rock 'n' roll, played on a wide open stage with Beauford and Reynolds driving the band hard.

-- The tempo shifts in some of those songs can give you whiplash. When the band really gets rolling -- a 10-minute-plus "Crush" was a fine example -- there's no telling where it's going to end up.

-- Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" was an inspired choice for a cover song. The crowd was largely of an age that was raised on MTV and, one note into it, everyone knew what the band was playing.

-- I should have known it was going to be an interesting evening when I first noticed the kiddie train (you know, the kind you see at birthday parties and suburban malls) carrying people through the concourse at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. It was part of a promotion put on by arena managers SMG to get people to buy club seats, and they picked the perfect night for it. There were face-painters and people making balloon sculptures, which added to the already festive atmosphere.

So, am I a Dave Matthews Band fan now? You betcha. Now if you'll pardon me, I've got a lot of catching up to do.

Tom Szaroleta: (904) 359-4548

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(c)2014 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.)

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Source: Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, FL)


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