There was no way we were going to miss the Dave Matthews Band’s last stop after touring for 20 straight years. The band announced earlier this year they would be taking 2011 off. Even though our first show was 2004, it seems like we’ve been fans for longer since Tim got us hooked on their live recordings going back into the mid 90’s.
The two final shows of the tour were right up the road in good ol’ Charlottesville, Virginia November 19 and 20. These were good dates for us: 1) Both Tracey and I turned 40 days before, and 2) There was no Auburn game conflicting. With the shows practically in our back yard, child and kitty care were of little concern. So off we went for a DMB weekend, old people style. The plan was “no plan”.
We kicked off the weekend with friends at a nice little brewery nestled away in the hills of Nelson County. The place happened to be in our wheelhouse. Not only did the Blue Mountain Brewery have great craft brew but their menu featured locally grown ingredients. I kicked it back with their “Full Nelson”, a pale ale not afraid to jump out on it’s own. Normally I’ll try an Amber or even an IPA before a Pale Ale because I never know quite what to expect in pale ales. In this case it was a welcome surprise; nice clean, fresh hops and aroma, not too spicy nor bitter, beautiful cream head and heavy lace. A very impressive beer for my taste buds.
That and the DMB shows turned out to be the highlights (of course). We wanted to jump into Virginia wine country Saturday. The combination of a late start out, incredible weather, and crowds kept us out of the vineyards. We drove out to several before deciding to head into Charlottesville to relax for dinner. After all we are 40 now. We got a good dose of the Mellow Mushroom and more craft brew (Bell’s Brown on tap) before heading towards the show.
This was our 3rd and 4th shows at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville. We love the indoor venues. Everything is better, at least to me. Lighting, environment, sound, just about everything you want to hear music is better indoors because nothing escapes. As a basketball arena, JPJ is intimate too as every seat is practically on top of the stage. UVA thought things out well with this venue.
You can check out the complete set lists for the shows on AntsMarching.org and even download copies. Just click the dates for the lists.
We thought overall the band went about their evenings in a business like fashion. There wasn’t a lot of messing around. Friday night featured more songs for the new album than Saturday. Saturday’s show certainly was the unique performance the crowd had been waiting for. Both nights were full of energy from both crowd and band but Saturday had extra edge and an unpredictable flavor.
What made the shows special to us was hearing a good bit of music for the first time live and in person. On Friday Blackjack, Spoon, Christmas Song, and Halloween were firsts for us. Halloween was a complete surprise played right on the heels of All Along the Watchtower to close night 1. Night 1 also featured a couple of guests. Guitarist Joe Lawlor (and DMB sound engineer) came on stage for #41. If you’ve heard #41and know of the long sax solo, imagine a rhythm blues guitar solo there instead. It was amazing particularly the duel with Tim Reynolds at the climax of the song. Local hero John D’earth came on for Warehouse and was joined by Trombone Shorty for Jimi Thing too.
Trombone Shorty was as good as advertised. His opening set Friday was fairly long for an opening act, not as long as the Zac Brown Band from earlier in the year but not the standard “45 minutes and off” set either. I had downloaded some music several weeks ago but the studio recordings don’t do the live act justice. It’s rich, diverse, rhythmic, and soulful. This is the type of act I would love to see in a 300 person venue to better connect to the music. Hurricane Season, One Night Only, Something Beautiful, and Orleans & Claiborne stood out to us as show stoppers from Trombone Shorty’s set list.
We knew Saturday night would be special when Jeff Coffin and Rashawn Ross joined Trombone Shorty on stage in the opening set for the James Brown cover I Got the Feelin’. This had been played on Friday but with Rashawn and Jeff on stage it got extra improv time to break down some soul and man it was hot, something special to witness. The night boiled over from there.
Saturday was the show for us to see in 2010. Firsts for us included the Johnny Cash cover Long Black Veil, Eh Hee, Blackjack, Write A Song, Digging a Ditch, What You Are, Say Goodbye, the Song that Janes Likes, and Tracey’s favorite Some Devil. Trombone Shorty came up for a jazzed version of Cornbread. Joe Lawlor was summoned on stage for a blues version of Rhyme and Reason. The entire set list for night two was over 3 and a half hours long with not one but two encores.
The encores were unexpected. As if the crowd wasn’t worked into a frenzy enough with Two Step ending the original set, Dave came out to play Some Devil alone. The band followed for Granny, teased #40and ended the tour with Last Stop. Band members were walking off the stage at the end of the first encore but Dave and Carter starting cooking something up and before you know it the band teased a jam (something between Anyone Seen the Bridge and Too Much) and then blew right into Ants Marching. The crowd went berserk.
We saw more DMB concerts over the last two years than most other things in life = a lot. There’s no doubt we were a little pushed to the brink. What drew us to DMB shows originally was the unpredictability of the set lists, each show being unique. Last year that lost a little of its luster as the band heavily promoted its studio album. That promotion carried over to this summer’s tour.
We heard a good bit of Big Whiskey in Charlottesville this weekend too but the final night was a show we had been yearning for for many months. It was a good balance between older and newer, and of course the songs we’ve burned our MP3 players out listening to.
We wish these guys well next year and are looking forward to seeing them again in 2012 or the next time we have the chance.