Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Concert Review: Dave Matthews Band - August 29, 30, 31 2014

It was my first trip to the Gorge. For years I had heard about the magnificent shows that Dave Matthews Band performed there, some of the greatest of their career, but I never had the opportunity to travel west to see the place Dave once called “Heaven’s Amphitheater.”

My friend from Australia convinced me to make the trip. She was taking the once in a lifetime trek to The Gorge all the way from down under. And if she was going to travel that far to see one of her favorite bands, then how could I not do the same? Especially since my trip would be a heck of a lot shorter than hers. So, with no further thought, I decided to take the plunge and make a lifetime dream come true.
The Gorge in all its beauty

Sundown - Night Three

The Gorge is the most beautiful outdoor theater I have ever observed. Having finally travelled there and taken in the sites, I understand why fans come from all over the globe year after year to see Dave Matthews Band perform their historic concerts. Our weekend trip to the Gorge was billed as a caravan concert, meaning multiple acts would be performing before DMB took the stage. Most of them were bands I had never heard of, and all of them, with the exception of Brandi Carlile, performed on the side stage. We listened to some of the bands here and there, but didn’t really pay much attention to them. It was my first time at the Gorge and I wanted to take in every little nuance of the venue that I could.

Luck was on our side for this trip as my friend scored pit tickets to all three shows; a dream come true. This would be the closest to the band I had ever been and of course I was excited. However, I do get claustrophobic in tight situations, so having pit tickets was a blessing and a curse. I figured that I would be able to manage though. I would just have to hope for the best.

Brandi Carlile opened all three nights and on night one, we were in the pit and ready to go about 30 minutes before she even took the stage. I didn’t know any of her music, but I was interested in seeing her perform. I had heard a couple of her songs on the radio and they were decent enough that I thought I would enjoy her live act and maybe exit The Gorge with a new band to explore.

As the sun descended over the western skyline, Dave Matthews appeared on stage to introduce the opening act as he always does. The Gorge crowd gave their obligatory roar of approval and Dave introduced Brandi as one of the hottest women he knows. And while she is quite attractive, it was her music I was most interested in. I was going to have to see her perform three nights in a row, so I really hoped that I would enjoy her songs.

The lovely Brandi Carlile
 Brandi and her band came out after the introduction and launched into their first song. Her music style is alternative country, reminiscent of bands like Son Volt. I was very impressed with her performance on night one and thankful that she sounded so good. I would not have any concerns listening to her music for two more nights.

Carlile performed 2 cover songs her first night: “Nothing Compares 2 U” and “The Chain.” And while her rendition of “Nothing Compares 2 U” was a fabulous one, she really nailed Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.” It was almost as good as seeing the original in concert . The highlight of her performance, however, was her hit song “The Story.” I am sure that I have heard the song on the radio, or over the internet, or somewhere, but I couldn’t really remember where. What I do know was that as soon as I heard it live, I was mesmerized. What a fantastic song! And having since heard the studio version several times, I can honestly proclaim that the live version is a thousand times better. Brandi’s voice just appears stronger in concert than on the day that she recorded the studio version of the song. All in all I was very impressed with Brandi Carlile and her band.

After a brief break, it was time for the main event. In 2014 Dave Matthews Band was touring behind 2 sets, where the band would perform an acoustic set, take a quick break, and then perform an electric set. This was my third show of the 2014 tour, so I knew what to expect, but I was still as excited as a rookie hitting his first major league home run.

Dave took center stage first, and opened the weekend with a terrific cover of the classic John Denver song, “Take Me To Tomorrow.” He sounded amazing and the song was wonderful. It was the first time I was able to see him perform that song and I thought it was awesome. Some great notable tracks were presented in that first set including “Bartender,” “Lie In Our Graves,” “Two Step,” and “What Would You Say?” It was a fantastic set to kick off the weekend, and as I stood there in the pit, a mere 20 feet from the stage, I took it all in, reeling in my good fortune.

I also learned a few things about being in a pit that weekend. One of my first lessons was that while I am glad to have had the opportunity to experience DMB up close and personal, I will never get pit tickets again. Part of it may be that I am aging, part of it may be my acute claustrophobia, and part of it may be the people that surrounded us those three nights. Basically, the pit is a free for all of mostly drunk concert attendees who lack respect for personal space as everyone tries to surge closer and closer to the stage during the course of the night.

As the first night wore on, my Aussie friend and I were constantly bumped, pushed, shoved, and jostled by a sea of moving bodies who were consistently taking one step forward in an attempt to get even closer to the stage. At one point, there was literally no room to move. The last time I experienced that was during an Iron Maiden concert ( and I eventually had to tap out for air. The same experience happened on this night as well. By the time “The Song That Jane Likes” was unveiled I told my friend that I needed to get out of the pit and headed for the lawn. She followed and joined me prior to the encore. We watched the encore together from the lawn and gulped in the copious amount of air that was now available without anyone trying to run us down.

Yeah, I was that close....
That’s not to say that all three nights in the pit were like that. The second show (Saturday night) found a much friendlier pit experience, and while still cramped and crowded, there was less bumping and shoving, and friendlier people within our vicinity. As has happened to me at past DMB concerts, I found myself receiving warm embraces from random strangers, both male and female, and dancing the night away with new friends of the evening. The group surrounding us on Saturday evening was filled with lovely men and women who appreciated the music as much as I and who were more than willing to dance the night away with us. That was part of the reason that Saturday night was so magical.

The other reason was the song selection that DMB pulled out for their Saturday night concert at The Gorge. Simply stated, of the 17 DMB shows I have seen, this one might have been the best of the bunch. The acoustic set was damn near flawless and the electric set opened with one of the band’s most vastly underrated songs, “Minarets.” That was followed by “One Sweet World” and “Seek Up” which made for a terrific 3 song electric set opener. A song or two later, Brandi Carlile took the stage with legendary Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready, and they performed the rarely played “Spoon.” The roar from the crowd was impactful, and as I turned from my space in the pit to look up at everyone in attendance, I was just overwhelmed. There must have been close to 18,000 people at that concert, and for an amphitheater setting, that is humongous. Night two also included a stupendous rendition of “Don’t Drink The Water,” an amazing “Dancing Nancies,” and a song that I had never seen in concert before,
“Long Black Veil.” Add in that the encore closer was “Halloween” and it was the recipe for a perfect evening. I was absolutely drained after that show, and I still had one more night to go!

On Sunday we arrived in the early afternoon and decided to sit and watch some of the opening bands on the side stage for a little while and then relaxed on the lawn prior to taking our spot in the pit. There was absolutely no way that DMB was going to top the show from the night before, but knowing this band as well as I do, I knew that they were going to try.

The acoustic opener for the last night of the weekend was extremely unexpected. Dave came out solo with an acoustic guitar, told a silly story about a bird, and then delved in to “All Along The Watchtower.” Hearing the usual encore closer as an acoustic set opener was surreal yet amazing. It was nice to see that there was the potential to have the set turned on its ear.

I have to say that the acoustic set for night three was probably the best of all the acoustic sets I saw on that tour. A fabulous cover of Paul Simon’s “Slip Slidin’ Away,” a tremendous “Tipping Billies,” and the two song set closer of “Crash Into Me,” followed by “Typical Situation” made it the set to remember. It was truly an experience to partake in.

The electric set tried its best to follow suit, but again, after what we had witnessed the night before, it was going to be near impossible to top. The band gets an A for effort though. “Best Of What’s Around” opened the last electric set of the weekend to the crowds approval. A few songs later I got to witness “Lover Lay Down” live for the first time. It was a song I had wanted to hear for 17 DMB concerts, and I finally got it. I closed my eyes and let myself drift off in the music. It was the perfect topper to an already tremendous weekend.

The rest of the set was strong, and the encore brought out fan favorite “The Stone,” but it didn’t come close to being a better experience than the night before. And by the end of the show, I had enough pit for one weekend and made my way to the lawn one final time, this time due mostly to overall body weariness. I sat down on an open space in the lawn and watched the end of the show from there, while taking in the stars in the sky and the beauty of The Gorge for one final time.

Anything that I put into words for this concert post is not going to do my feelings justice. This was a once in a lifetime trip that I made to see one of my favorite bands at one of the most historic venues in the United States. The feeling of euphoria that washed over me as these three days unfolded is near indescribable. I was ecstatic. I was mesmerized. I was elated. I had never felt so much joy attending a concert or a musical festival. Even now, I can close my eyes, listen to Brandi Carlile sing “The Story” and smell the wind in the air. I can still envision the way chills ran over my body when I walked up the hill and saw the stage that sits on the Columbia River for the first time. It is a memory that will be ingrained in me for a lifetime. If you ever have the chance to see a show at The Gorge, I highly recommend it, and if it’s a chance to see DMB at The Gorge, I almost demand that you go. It will create memories for a lifetime.


August 29, 2014:
Take Me To Tomorrow
Two Step
Lie In Our Graves
Stolen Away On 55th And 3rd
What Would You Say
Drive In Drive Out
Big Eyed Fish
Belly Belly Nice
Digging A Ditch
Why I Am
The Song That Jane Likes
Pantala Naga Pampa
Belly Full
Good Good Time
You Might Die Trying

August 30, 2014
Little Red Bird
Stay Or Leave
Old Dirt Hill
Snow Outside
Ants Marching
Sugar Man
So Damn Lucky
One Sweet World
Seek Up
Out Of My Hands
Don’t Drink The Water
If Only
Dancing Nancies
Save Me
Long Black Veil
So Much To Say
Anyone Seen The Bridge

August 31, 2014
All Along The Watchtower
Grace Is Gone
Slip Slidin Away
Tripping Billies
Loving Wings
Rhyme And Reason
Crash Into Me
Typical Situation
The Best Of What’s Around
When The World Ends
Lover Lay Down
Corn Bread
Jimi Thing
Grey Street
Steady As We Go
Drunken Soldier
Can’t Stop
You And Me
Some Devil
The Stone
Shake Me Like A Monkey

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