As part of a whirlwind tour of Southern California and Las Vegas, Dave Matthews – minus his titular band and plus guitarist extraordinaire Tim Reynolds – stopped by the Santa Barbara Bowl this weekend and managed to blow the sold-out crowds’ minds both nights.
The show was entirely acoustic, and Matthews performed most of the songs swaying from a simple stool. The set-list for the show was often surprising, and quite simply amazing.
After a less-than-stellar summer tour and a letdown of an album, it was a hell of a treat for any long-term Matthews fan – read: stoner – “Warehouse,” “Two Step,” “Crush” and oh so many other classics in one night of Matthews’ magic.
Matthews and Reynolds started the night off-no opening act, no drunken hellos or anything of the sort-with “#41”. And, although Matthews’ voice won’t hold the high notes for as long anymore, and the rasp in his voice seems to grow with each concert, it was a hell of a way to start the show.
I had come into the show skeptical. The tickets were more than $60 – $78 on Ticketmaster – the Santa Barbara Bowl is certainly not my favorite venue, and the big question was how would Matthews be without a saxophone wailing behind him, or a four-minute violin solo in the middle of his songs?
Well, Reynolds stepped forward and made up for the entire band. The man can play guitar, and it is not surprising that Matthews said he has idolized him for years.
After “#41”, the duo broke into “Dodo,” “Warehouse” and “Stay or Leave” before playing the first showstopper of the night, “Don’t Drink the Water.” All in all, it was a hell of a way to start a concert.
“Don’t Drink the Water,” originally developed on the acoustic guitar with Reynolds 10 years ago, was classic. Although Matthews couldn’t wail as long or as high as he has in previous concerts, he and Reynolds made up for it with an incredibly intensity.
But one of the most exciting things about the night was that the bumbling, mumbling and quiet Matthews that his fans generally get to meet in larger venues was nowhere to be seen. The man would not shut up. From oral sex, to the collective wealth of the audience, Matthews was surprisingly funny with his mid-show commentary -and definitely on some sort of substance. One man behind me laughed to himself, “Holy shit, he’s as high as I am.”
“Maybe it’s the mushrooms” Matthews mused.
Matthews and Reynolds slowed it down a bit after “Don’t Drink the Water,” and went right into a meandering, but lovely version of “Crush” that drew every couple in the audience a few inches closer to each other.
And after a rendition of “Oh” that drew a collective “ah” from the crowd, Matthews and Reynolds tinkered with a version of Neil Young’s “Down by the River.” The two then donned Blues Brothers shades for a fiery “Smooth Rider.” It was one of only two songs from Dave Matthews Band’s most recent album, Stand Up, that Matthews and Reynolds played that night – and maybe that’s why the show was so damn good.
Then, all of a sudden, the first chords of “Two Step” boomed over the speakers and four and a half thousand high 18-50 year olds freaked the shit out.
It was no 18-minute masterpiece, but man, did Matthews and Reynolds rock out. At one point, during Reynolds’ jam session, I looked right and left, only to see that all eyes were fixed on stage and all jaws were gaping.
The duo wasted none of the energy leftover after “Two Step,” as they moved into “Jimi Thing,” followed by a playful, dueling “Save Me.” Matthews then prefaced the next song by telling a rambling story of how a woman once called into a radio station and asked the DJ not to play “Gravedigger” anymore, because every time it came on, she burst into tears.
Matthews and Reynolds finished with a long, playful, energetic and all around awesome “Dancing Nancies.” A song that is slow and melodic, yet also surprisingly fast and intense, “Dancing Nancies” closed the show quite well.
Then, after a few minutes of applause, the two walked back onto the stage-even though Matthews “forgot to pee. Again.”- and played their second song from Stand Up, “Old Dirt Hill”. It was not half as interesting as “The Maker,” the second of three encore songs, which, in turn, isn’t half as popular as their coup de grace, “Ants Marching.” Regardless, I had a hard-on the whole encore, as I imagine about half of the audience did too.
Earlier on the in show, Matthews mentioned that all of his songs – and life in general – are about love and death. For some reason – and lucky for anyone who forked over an amount equal to 10 Freebirds burritos to see the show – those two themes just go hand-in-hand with acoustic guitars.