Dave Matthews Band

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Dave Matthews Band

music  A show for young and old alike! It‘s the last show of the summer tour and three generations of Dave Matthews Band fans have arrived at what is now officially Charlottesville’s arena from as far away as Canada and as near as Albemarle High School. With me for the evening is 15-year-old Simon, whose parents just bought tickets outside. Simon says a lot of people his age are at the concert. How many are here with their parents? Pause. “Pretty much all of them,” 14-year-old Madeline, Simon’s friend, says. Simon is so excited he can barely speak, until the lights go out and he yells, “Yeah!” People wave cell phones like lighters. Dave walks out first, alone. The crowd roars and he throws his arms up in triumph. He is glad to be home.
    “This guitar isn’t small, I’m just enormous!” Dave says four songs into the show, introducing a new tune called “Shotgun.” This tour has been obsessively tracked in real time online. I can see, already, the cell phones and PDAs are out, people texting second-by-second reviews. The Internet geeks seem to like “Shotgun,” and I agree, and Simon agrees, and the guy behind me slaps my back in joy. The song is beautiful and dramatic—like you’re floating way out at sea and missing somebody really bad.
    The band is LOUD; they’re dropping bombs, waging sonic war. Dave’s neck swells like a cobra’s when he screams. Boyd dances like a maniac. The way he’s playing I think he might rip someone’s head off out of sheer glee. The band is loose and goofy, clearly having a great time. They play “Tripping Billies” and Dave does his little dance, Stefan smiles, and it all sounds just like the old days, only bigger.
    Simon is transfixed, staring wide-eyed and slowly shaking his head. They’re dancing up in the VIP suites. The band is playing well, keeping the energy high. In many ways they haven’t changed at all since they began 15 years ago. Nobody dresses even remotely like a rock star, and the songs still sound alike: noodle, build to crescendo, scream, lock into (overly long?) groove, scream, end. But the 14-year-olds, their parents, the college kids—as far as I can tell, they are ecstatic.
    “Louisiana Bayou” ends it with Dave wearing Boyd’s sunglasses and a UVA pimp hat. Robert Randolph (he and his group, the Family Band, opened) plays pedal steel, leaping up and kicking his chair away, Jerry Lee Lewis style. He’s on his feet, playing. He’s on his knees, playing. Simon stares and whispers, “Oh my God…”
    Dave comes out alone for the encore. He sings “Butterfly,” dedicating it to his mom, who is here tonight. His voice is shot—hot wind over gravel. He seems exhausted. Mom must be proud.
    The band return for “American Baby Intro.” Dave screams with everything he has left, the last shreds of his vocal cords. Mom must be wincing. A man appears next to Carter’s drum kit, starts to walk towards Dave. Two giants suddenly grab him. Mom must be terrified. The crowd gasps. The man is yanked off the stage. The band leaps into (ironically) “Stay.” The crowd cheers, forgets the trespasser. Simon’s head explodes. Lights down, lights up. Welcome home, DMB! Thank you and goodnight! —J. Tobias Beard

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