It was my only attendance at a Dave Matthews Band concert in 2015 and I arrived in the PNC Arts Center parking lot in Holmdel, NJ, in high spirits. I anticipated the concert with mixed emotions---partially excited and partially sad. The excitement was from seeing one of my favorite bands perform a concert. It would be my 18th time seeing this band live, creating a tie with Bruce Springsteen for performers that I have seen in concert the most. The sadness came from the fact this was my first and last Dave Matthews Band show for the year.
I had settled on lawn seats for that concert, which in retrospect was not the best decision. Part of that may be due to my aging and having less tolerance. Part of it may be the crowd that surrounded me. And part of it may be because of the band’s sound system. Whatever the cause, it was not a great lawn experience for me.
Don’t get me wrong, the people were friendly (as always). Everyone was laughing and enjoying the evening, offering to share whatever they had, and conversing in amicable conversation. However, the conversations continued as the concert started and well into both sets. I enjoy conversations with friends and fans as much as the next person, but when the show starts, I want to see and hear the show. It’s ultimately what I came to the venue for. Yet, when the acoustic set started the night, people continued to talk…and talk… and talk. It was genuinely hard to hear the band.
This made me wonder about their sound system. Acoustic performances are quieter by nature, but with the lawn at sold out capacity, and the general buzz of conversation, DMB needed to up the amps for the first set. It was almost impossible to hear the opening song, “Take Me To Tomorrow.” And that just sucks, because I love Dave’s version of the song. I had to go on You Tube later that week to fully appreciate it.
The acoustic opening set was terrific overall, just hard to hear. I was delighted that some of my favorite DMB songs were performed such as “Bartender,” “One Sweet World,” and “When The World Ends.” However, sitting high on top of the lawn, I had to struggle to hear them. And of course, I got to hear my least favorite DMB song (“The Stone”) for the fifth time since I started seeing the band. Every time I bring up the fact that I don’t like this song, it drives diehard fans crazy. There are some fans that have been trying to hear this song live for years, and I happen to get it every fourth show. And while the acoustic version was good, it still didn’t make me love the song. And for the record, I don’t hate the song, I just don’t prefer it.
Closing the acoustic set with “Typical Situation” was a highlight of the night for me. I’ve only witnessed this song live one other time (Bethel Woods). It was magical then and it was magical on this night as well. The first time I heard the song live, I enjoyed it, but I didn’t appreciate it the way I did this time around. The reason for that is because the first time I heard the song live I had never spent a lot of time listening to it. After hearing it live, “Typical Situation” entered my regular rotation. So, by the time I saw it live for the second time, I had a full appreciation of just what a fantastic song it is.
The electric set kicked off with a rousing version of “Don’t Drink The Water,” one of my favorite songs to hear live. Dave’s voice is always so powerful on this song and hearing the audience sing the chorus at the top of their lungs was just a moment of paradise. I will always love hearing this one live.
There were a few weaker moments in the electric set, even though most fans in attendance would disagree. After seeing the band live 18 times, there are certain songs that are going to be a disappointment to me. “Why I Am,” “Proudest Monkey,” and “Mercy” were such songs on that evening. The first two I don’t like at all, and I’m just not a fan of the live version of “Mercy.” It drags on too long and lacks the punch of other songs the band could perform live. DMB would make up for this a little later in the set though.
The moment of the night came when Warren Haynes walked out on stage and the band performed “Cortez The Killer” for the first time in years. I’ve listened to this song from The Central Park Concert disc endless times, but to witness it live on a beautiful June evening was stupendous. Warren Haynes is such a talent on guitar and watching him play never gets tired. I loved seeing him in The Allman Brothers and I was mesmerized watching him on stage with the Dave Matthews Band. If I never saw the band in concert again, I would take that moment as the highlight of my DMB concerts. It was just breath taking.
The biggest disappointment of the evening was the one song encore. Never in my history of seeing Dave Matthews Band live have I been subjected to a one song encore. Now, I know, PNC has a strict curfew, but perhaps the band could have chosen two quick songs to encore with? And while “Tripping Billies” is an exceptional song, it’s hard to fully enjoy a one song encore. The anticipation and excitement of the end of the night is built up only to be cut off with a “Thank you very much!” and the band walking off the stage. That’s a tough ending.
Overall, it was another solid performance by one of my favorite bands and I will be seeing them live again. Only this time around I made sure that I purchased actual seats. I think that my days on the lawn (at least for DMB) are over and done with. And while it may mean that I go to less DMB shows, it will ensure that I appreciate the ones I do see even more.
Set One (Acoustic)
Take Me To Tomorrow
Funny The Way It Is
One Sweet World
You And Me
The Song That Jane Likes
When The World Ends
Set Two (Electric)
Don’t Drink The Water
Why I Am
Belly Belly Nice
Cortez The Killer
So Much To Say>>>
Anyone Seen The Bridge>>>
Too Much (tease)>>>