Note: The following review of the Dave Matthews Band concert in Charlottesville will be written in “Dave-speak,” or the lingua franca of those who follow the band.
Yeah, bro, so we saw Dave down at UVA this weekend and it was dope. Like, …
Okay, we’ll stop.
But seriously, folks, it was “dope.” Imagine a football stadium on the most beautiful night this side of Dip Ball. Wait, Dip Ball sucks. But the weather was perfect for Dave Matthews to kick off his 2001 summer tour in the town where it all started, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Now Charlottesville, about two and a half hours away from D.C., is beautiful on its own, but try experiencing the natural beauty of the mountains after spending seven hours trying to get there.
Because Georgetown parking rates are frickin’ outrageous, none of us fans have a car here on campus. Thus, we had to find another way to get to UVA and back, and the bus, well, the bus just wasn’t an option. So we decided to rent a car, from this place called Rent-a-Wreck (we’re not kidding). Heard of it? Well, neither had we, but apparently they rent cars to people under 21 (is that legal?).
Two of us went downtown Saturday morning to rent this wreck, which turned out to be a periwinkle blue Mercury Sable from 1993. The rental shack was in an alley. A guy named Dan with few teeth rented us the car, and he didn’t bother to ask us insurance information or our age or where we were going. Can you say sketchy?
Anyway, two hours later, we found ourselves stranded in Vienna, Virginia. Our car’s transmission had exploded and bled all over the highway, with a huge cloud of smoke blinding the Timothy McVeigh look-alike driving behind us. So we sat on the side of Nutley Road, eating McDonald’s, doubly pissed that none of us won anything in the new “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” scratch-off game. Now, we realize this has nothing to do with Dave Matthews, but we’re just trying to set the mood.
We returned to Washington in a cab, and Matt here hollered at his roommate’s sister until she gave us her car. So there we finally were, driving down I-29 on our way to see Dave. Oh whoops, we mean Dave Matthews. Our late arrival caused us to miss Neil Young, but we walked into Scott Stadium with about two minutes left in his set. “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World!” blared over the sound system. And there was much rejoicing. Then he left, and as the darkness began to creep over the Shenendoahs and into Charlottesville, a mustached man in khakis came on stage. This man had a name, and it was David. Some other guys were behind him. Their names were Boyd, Stefan, Leroi and Carter.
Amidst the screams of 40-year old potheads and teenybopper fans yelling for “Crash into me,” the fiddle picking intro to “Two Step” eminated from the stage. Yes, we are using the passive voice.
They played the usual fan staples, like “So Much to Say,” “Too Much” and “Ants Marching.” But dominating the show were songs from the band’s new album, Everyday. They played six of the album’s 12 tracks. While the fans weren’t as familiar with the new lyrics, they were very much into the new songs, especially when Leroi busted out a badass sax-solo on “So Right.”
The group also played two unreleased songs from last year’s scrapped Lillywhite sessions. Those songs, “JTR” and “Grace is Gone,” reflected a slower DMB, perhaps one of the reasons Matthews ditched Lillywhite in the first place. The crowd was noticeably more mellow as a result. However, the songs were still excellent and more jam-based than the rest of the show.
The lack of jamming was the most noticeable thing about the concert. During his last four tours, and when the band was floating around Virginia in the early ‘90s, the band utilised the improvisation of Boyd and Leroi much more. But this time, Matthews seemed more inclined to keep his songs shorter and more structured. This is perhaps a reflection of the fact that this was their first tour date, and the band was still trying to find the right rhythm, especially with the newer songs. Despite these slight drawbacks, Boyd “stole the show” with his fierce and fiery fiddle-playing, sustaining songs that would have otherwise been mediocre for a DMB show.
The obvious highlight of the night came when Neil Young, old and haggard, came out to accompany Matthews in a cathartic rendition of “All Along the Watchtower.” The song’s strength lay in the ghostly vocals of Neil Young contrasted with Dave’s slightly edgier voice. Carter’s hard-charging drum-play amplified the effect, providing the perfect background to the classic song.
Finally, for the encore, the band played the new “If I Had it All” along with 1998’s hit “Stay.” However, even while Matthews might have been playing “Stay,” many of the less hardcore fans began to leave. They were in the minority, but the effect was noticeable enough for Dave not to come back for a second time. This was disappointing, given that Dave hasn’t played in C-Ville for years. But all in all, it was a great night, especially since we actually got there.
Don’t ever rent a wreck.