Last Updated on August 21, 2022 by Lil Ginge
For most of my life, Dave Matthews Band was a religion for me.
Each year, I’d make my holy pilgrimage to my local live music venue to see my God, Dave, and his apostles, the other band members.
I’d eat the holy communion (often a juicy and thicsk grilled sausage), drink the sacramental wine (usually just actual wine), and be merry in an ecstatic revelry, contorting every body part to each nook and cranny of their complex rhythmic polyphony.
It would be an out-of-body experience shared by 20,000 of my closest friends as we all simultaneously clung to the holy absolute truth that life was short but sweet for certain.
Becoming A Secular Dave Matthews Band Fan
Dave Matthews Band isn’t really a religion for me anymore. But on August 20th, 2022 at the iThink Amphitheatre at the South Florida Fairgrounds in West Palm Beach, I remembered why attending services at the church of Dave is so powerful.
The band put on a show for the ages last night, playing their assess off for a full two hours and forty-five minutes as if they were still in their twenties rather than their forties, fifties, and *gasp* sixties – elder statesman and drummer Carter Beauford is somehow now 63 years old.
Dave Matthews has joked that the band isn’t really that popular; that they only have 35,000 fans but that these fans come to every single show. While not literally true, Dave Matthews Band fandom is deeper than it is wide.
Some of my longtime Dave Matthews Band friends have been to two or three hundred shows. I myself lost count somewhere around 65, but it’s entirely possible I’ve broken the one hundred show barrier by now given my annual trek to at least one or two shows for the last twelve years.
Remembering My DMB Religion
My Dave Matthews Band concert journey began in 1996 when I dragged my poor mother to the greatest room in the world – New York City’s famed Madison Square Garden – for my first show. It was a born-again conversion that left me shook and wondering how I was going to break it to the folks at Hebrew School that I was abandoning the faith.
Truth be told, I wasn’t initially excited for last night’s show. My attitude towards the band is no longer so much one of a devout believer but rather the older statesman at church that continues to put on his finest suit and drag himself to the pews every Sunday morning in order to keep up appearances and as a tribute to my younger more fervent days.
But last night, I could not have been more wrong to feel that way. The band played the best show I’ve seen in ages, or at least I felt that way last night watching and listening.
As God-Man with his merry band Dave Matthews took the stage about fifteen minutes past official time at 7:45 to an electrified crowd, the boys kicked it off with their Everyday-era horny romp “When the World Ends”, a quick and dirty burner about making love during the apocalypse. As I look around at headlines of worldwide droughts, war, and authoritarian governments, such a song never sounded more relevant to me.
A Tour Through DMB’s Discography
The band proceeded to spend the rest of the two hours and forty-five minutes dusting off tunes from almost every era of the band’s recording history, from the sweet young lover’s ode “Lover Lay Down” off their major label debut Under the Table and Dreaming to “Can’t Stop,” a sexy soulful ass shaker from their latest record Come Tomorrow.
In fact, the only albums the band ignored were their fan-favorite 1998 studio culmination Before These Crowded Streets and 2005’s slightly disappointing Stand Up. However, Dave gave a hat tip to the latter by interpolating lyrics from the anthemic live favorite American Baby Intro during a groovy, stoner outro to the lengthy “Lying In the Hands of God”.
Other highlights of the night included the rollicking rendition of “Dancing Nancies”, a thoughtful and subtle performance of “#41”, and a crowd-pleasing, pile-driving performance of “Two Step” to close out the encore.
The band also showcased two terrific new songs I hope feature on the band’s next studio record, the middle-eastern tinged pop rocker “Madman’s Eyes”, and the flute-enhanced groover “Walk Around the World”, with woodwinds courtesy of Jeff Coffin and his ever-tuggable goatee.
If there was one song that missed on the night, it was the drunken, mournful country slow burner “Grace Is Gone”, which felt like something of a mood-killer after the passionate, driving “Squirm”. But the subtle keyboard solo from Buddy Strong even helped to boost that song to more of a barn burner than a mournful dirge by the end.
Born Again Davehead After All?
But my favorite moment of the night was the mellow and pensive “Pay For What You Get” that Dave and the boys brought out for the first encore. A quiet and thoughtful tune off of Under the Table and Dreaming, the crowd was silent and attentive as Dave reminded us that, “Everybody asked me how she’s doing / has she really lost her mind / I said I couldn’t tell you I’ve lost mind.”
Last night might not have been a quite a holy experience for me. But it was a powerful reminder that I’ll never regret having been a long-time convert to the church of Dave Matthews Band, the only religion I’ve ever known.