CONCERT REVIEW: Dave Matthews Band at iTHINK Financial Amphitheater
It’s hard to believe the last time we saw Dave Matthews Band performing in South Florida was nearly two years ago. It wasn’t Dave’s fault, of course, after all, the pandemic prevented the world from doing much of anything. There were a few live stream shows and other occasional appearances here and there, but for the better part of the extended absence, longtime DMB fans waited patiently to resume seeing them live again. After being tired of isolation, remote work, and other things that have turned our world upside down, fans of “Dave,” as the band is known to their longtime followers, showed up, filling the venue to capacity on night one of a two-night sold-out tour stop at iTHINK Financial Amphitheater in West Palm Beach.
While the pandemic may have reemerged in the past few weeks, that didn’t deter the DMB faithful from showing up. With a full house of 20,000 of their most faithful fans, clearly there is something unique about fans who follow Dave. In fact, the best way to think about them is more of a community, a spiritual connection rather than simply casual supporters. Fans of DMB have continued to pack every show since Dave Matthews Band first played at this venue on September 4, 1996, and have made West Palm Beach a regular tour stop ever since.
One of the more exciting aspects to following bands such as DMB is not knowing what songs they would play, since these bands produce unique setlists for every show. This means of course that Saturday night’s show will be a unique experience of its own. However, one fired up fan yelled for Dave to play “Time Bomb,” a hit from the 2009 album Big Whiskey And The GrooGrux King. Of course the band didn’t oblige, as that was not on the docket for Friday night (July 30).
There was no opening act; instead the band played an extended set list. As always, the crowd chatter questioned what might be played, hoping for this song and that. The house lights dipped, and within seconds the stage came alive. As the band came out, you could feel the electricity buzz about the crowd, almost as if someone had showered the crowd with electrons, protons, and neutrons creating such a feeling. It’s the type of energy that makes the hair on your arms stand at attention. When longtime drummer Carter Beauford took his spot perched up high behind his massive drum kit, he greeted the crowd with an infectious smile that gave everyone assurance that for the next few hours, we could forget about the world’s problems and celebrate diversity; the band’s spirit offered an amazing experience that bridges the gaps in gender, race, color, and creed that exist among us.
Dave Matthews stood up front and center stage on lead vocals and acoustic, with Tim Reynolds on lead guitar to his left, Stefan Lessard quite busy with his amazing fingerpicking prowess on bass to the right, with Rashawn Ross and Jeff Coffin on trumpet and saxophones and Buddy Strong pounding the keys, the players were set.
The Dave Matthews Band wasted no time reaching into their deep catalog of tunes. The band’s straightforward approach to playing doesn’t rely on anything elaborate other than a spectacular light show, there wasn’t anything else; there didn’t need to be. The whole DMB experience is about hanging out with thousands of your closest friends while singing and dancing along to whatever song is played without a care about who is watching.
The night opened with “Seek Up,” a long tune from Remember Two Things (1993). It didn’t take long before Dave Matthews and company had the crowd fully engaged, quickly transitioning into fan-favorite and 1998 Grammy-nominated super hit “Crash Into Me.” At this point nearly everyone in the audience was moving and singing along, joining in full chorus to fill in when Dave Matthews went silent. DMB continued through a series of the band’s very best plus a couple covers, including “I Want a New Drug,” the 1984 single by Huey Lewis and the News, and paying homage to Prince with a not-so-clean version of ‘Sexy M.F.” from the Purple One’s 1992 album Love Symbol.
During Sexy M.F. we got to see Dave Matthews’ hilarious side, doing a little dancing and making funny facial expressions. The crowd ate it up, appreciating seeing this side of the usually serious Dave. His humor can be described as comical, amusing, or simply incongruou, which makes his personality such an integral part of the show.
The band continued at a steady pace following up with “When the World Ends,” “Satellite,” “Sweet Up and Down,” “Sweet,” “Recently,” “Funny the Way It Is,” and “Walk Around the Moon.” The highlight of the night was during “Jimi Thing,” a song that allows each member to capture the spotlight and showcase his individual instrument in short bursts of solo work. The duel between Buddy Strong’s keyboard proficiency and Tim Reynolds’ masterful guitar skills in an alternating sequence was fun as they slowly ramped up the crescendo offering pretty incredible listening. One thing that has been consistent is that this band is comprised of talented musicians, masterful one’s at that. DMB would continue with “Seven,” “Where Are You Going,” “Rooftop,” “Lying in the Hands of God,” “You & Me,” “Don’t Drink the Water,” “Louisiana Bayou,” and “Shake Me Like a Monkey” to close out the night.
Of course the audience wanted more; immersed in sweat from the more than two and a half hours of non-stop music; Dave Matthews Band obliged by taking up their instruments for two more songs, quickly getting into the 1992 ballad “Sister,” a song that is about his love for his younger sister Jane. The band closed out the night with “Tripping Billies,” a spirited song from 1997’s Crash.
The Dave Matthews Band didn’t disappoint, delivering an inspired set of the band’s very best tunes. As fans left the amphitheater, and the buzz slowly dissipated, it was clear fans got what they exactly came for: a night of inspired music that represents who America is. It was a night to connect with old friends, perhaps make some new ones, and to reestablish the common ground that exists among us, with music serving as the bridge to share in the spirit and hope for a better tomorrow. Until the next time, Dave Matthews!
Set List Dave Matthews Band West Palm Beach 7/30/2021
1. Seek Up
2. Crash Into Me
3. When the World Ends
5. Sweet Up and Down
8. Funny the Way It Is
9. Walk Around the Moon
10. Jimi Thing
11. I Want a New Drug
(Huey Lewis and the News cover)
12. Sexy M.F.
14. Where Are You Going
16. Lying in the Hands of God
17. You & Me
18. Don’t Drink the Water
19. Louisiana Bayou
20. Shake Me Like a Monkey
22. Tripping Billies