Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

Dave Matthews Band blows hot and cold at Wrigley Field

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dave091710.jpgPerennial tour titan Dave Matthews announced earlier this year, with noticeable relief, that his eponymous band would be taking next year off. It'll be the first summer in 20 years without a Dave Matthews Band show at your local shed. Judging by Friday night's Chicago show -- the first in a two-night stand at Wrigley Field -- Dave could use the break.

He certainly deserves the vacation, but Friday's hot-and-cold performance validated Matthews' own explanation about needing to recharge some "creative juices." Two decades have delivered some impressive commercial feats and occasional sharp music, enough to make this leading jam band as esteemed as the ivy on Wrigley's outfield wall. But more recently personal tragedies, internal bickering and creative coasting have left this once-mighty group musically stalled and out of gas.

with Jason Mraz
• 7 p.m. Saturday
• Wrigley Field, Clark and Addison
• Sold out

Friday's show was the kind of event that wasn't really bad, but it wasn't great, either. There were sizzling moments, to be sure. When Matthews' evil twin came out -- the sinister smirk, the devil eyes, the vein popping in his temple as he hollers or creates that creepy, muted screech -- the energy between band and crowd really crackled. It started with a cover of Talking Heads' "Burning Down the House." I never thought I'd write that the Dave Matthews Band really rocked, but there you go. "Dancing Nancies" amped up the power, increasing the electricity in the crowd, which reveled in the repeated lyrical exhortation to "look up at the sky" in a venue where they actually could. "Why I Am" rocked a solid riff, and Dave's devilish side really roared through an impassioned "Don't Drink the Water."

But these pulse-racing moments were few, and they were spaced far between too many noodling jams and long gaps between songs, which Matthews often tried to fill with strange, clipped banter in a curious country accent. While his band see-sawed behind him -- Boyd Tinsley's alternatingly rich ("Nancies") and poor ("Crush") electric violin solos, Tim Reynolds grinding in the second half with a flying-V guitar, and alert drummer Carter Beauford, who did yeoman's service filling in the many gaps in songs and solos -- non-evil Matthews was smirking, soft and dull, in danger of becoming so laid-back as a bandleader he could spend his break woodshedding with Poi Dog Pondering. Sometimes his timidity charged the song, as in the sly reading of "Crush," but mostly he looked tired, beat, frayed.

These Wrigley shows close out the band's summer tour (they're not done yet, they go back out to play a dozen arenas in November), still supporting last year's "Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King," and should be solid bookends to close out this phase of their career. Here's hoping the break brings them back with some energy and new ideas.

Popular singer-songwriter Jason Mraz and his hat opened the Friday concert, backed by a choir wearing Cubs jerseys and a nondescript band playing lite-R&B. Fortunately, Mraz focused on his real talent -- he's got a fine voice, showcased even in the simple, reggae-inflected gem "I'm Yours" -- and kept away from his usual skeebedy-beebedy-bop filler.

The DMB set list from Friday:

"One Sweet World"
"Funny the Way It Is"
"Lying in the Hands of God"
"Burning Down the House"
"Proudest Monkey"
"Shake Me Like a Monkey"
"Hunger for the Great Light"
"Dancing Nancies"
"Why I Am"
"You and Me"
"Don't Drink the Water"
"Ants Marching"
"Needle and the Damage Done"
"All Along the Watchtower"

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This article was "really bad, and wasn't great either." It had SIZZLING momoents? Anyone who tries to describe moments of a DMB concert as "sizzling" should maybe youtube a show or two. Perhaps the fans responses should have been published rather than Tom's depressing view on a delightfull evening. JUST SAYING.
The set list was amazing and the songs were full of energy and SICK improvisation. I've seen many DMB shows and friday night was worth the trip. peace tom

I never liked the Dave Matthew's band, they always sounded a little bit boring to me.So, I say good move Dave, take a break!

This guy needs to stick to write ups for Christina Aguilera!! Is this the first time you have seen DMB?? Noodling jams? Strange clipped banter???? That is the best part of the show moron!! The only slow down for a real fan might have been Proudest Monkey followed by Satelitte!! You obviously sat in the rooftops and not on the field with the real fans who actually went crazy for 2 and a half hours straight. Go back to covering up and comers on the bar scene and leave the real musicians alone bro.

Can you email or post Saturday's set list for the DMB concert? Thanks

Send a boy to do a mans job and thats the article you end up with.....

Jams and Banter is what DMB is all about. All the fans love and appreciate them. You need to start reviewing stuff you know because you really failed this.

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on September 18, 2010 11:54 PM.

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