BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER
The Dave Matthews Band continued the march of elite headliners into the Chase Center Tuesday night, becoming just the second performers to grace the stage at the Warriors newly christened arena in Mission Bay.
DMB normally plays the Greek Theater in Berkeley or Shoreline when visiting the Bay Area, but the new venue allowed them to actually play in San Francisco for the just the second time since headlining Outside Lands a full decade ago in 2009.
Following Metallica, who played the arena on Friday and Sunday, the 52-year old Matthews appearance at the shiny structure with wide concourses and comfy chairs precedes Eric Clapton and Elton John by a matter of days. The first Warriors exhibition game isn’t scheduled until October 5th.
As thousands of wide-eyed music fans arrived early for their first experience at the sparkling venue, the cavernous arena was slow to fill up, save for the tightly packed pit. But as the lights dimmed and DMB took the stage at 8:15 it would quickly fill to about 95% capacity as Matthews embarked on delivering a high energy two hour and 45 minute performance.
The band has evolved with a different look since the departure of long-time violinist and founding member Boyd Tinsley prior to the release of 2018’s Come Tomorrow, their most recent project, but nothing was lost from the diversity of the talented group. Featuring long-time sidekick Tim Reynolds on guitar along with Jeff Coffin on sax, Rashawn Ross (trumpet), Stefan Lessard (bass), Carter Beauford (drums), and keyboardist Buddy Strong, it would change tempos frequently throughout the evening on a moment’s notice, much to the delight of their fans in attendance.
The joy of seeing a band with so much quality material in their catalog that never plays anything close to the same set is incalculable. It puts DMB in the elite company of bands like Pearl Jam and Phish and few others that are known for improvising, rarely if ever performing with a pre-arranged setlist, or playing more than a handful of the same songs in back to back shows. It’s just one of the many things that makes the band so endearing to its fan base that frequently makes travel plans to take in multiple shows as soon as a Matthews tour schedule is announced, knowing that each show is likely to be a unique experience, as opposed to a choreographed performance down to the banter between songs.
Opening with “Squirm,” from 2009’s Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King, the Charlottesville based septet, beloved for their live appearances in addition to the abundance of concert recordings they’ve made available to the public, would proceed to present a balanced overview of their 26 year old career by playing tracks from nine of their ten studio albums.
The electricity in the room was noticeably amped up for what would be the first of many times with the appearance of “Tripping Billies” as the evening’s third song. The cut from DMB’s 1993 debut album Remember Two Things is instantly recognizable from it’s opening chords and and has long been a crowd favorite as one of the earliest tunes that helped Matthews and his bandmates gain widespread recognition.
Taking a moment to compliment the surroundings, Matthews showed his humor by quipping “It’s a beautiful view out there in the concourse. And I hear it f#@kin’ cost a sweet penny” in an animated voice. The $1.4 billion price tag provides no room to argue. Renditions of “Lie in Our Graves,” “Say Goodbye” and an incendiary horn driven version of “Rooftop” would soon follow.
A jazzy trip rock jam version of “Lying in the Hands of God” prior to “The Song That Jane Likes” and “Jimi Thing,” complete with trumpet and sax solos, would set the tone for one of the most surprising but enjoyable moments of the evening.
Dipping into it’s never ending supply of reworked cover versions of popular favorites, the band broke out a bluesy version of Prince’s ”Sexy M.F.” which led to a brilliant mash-up of AC/DC’s “Back in Black” and the Bee Gee’s “Stayin’ Alive.” As if that unlikely paring wasn’t enough, it evolved into a full-fledged version of Steve Miller’s “Fly Like an Eagle” on the back end. Unbelievably, yet as has come to be expected at a Matthews concert, the best was still yet to come.
Edgy versions of an inflammable “Don’t Drink the Water” from 1998’s Before These Crowded Streets and “Funny the Way It Is” took the show past the two hour mark with seemingly no end in sight. “Can’t Stop,” one of the stand-out tracks from their most recent effort, kept the energy level high before “The Space Between,” the lone cut played from 2001’s Everyday, delivered a more melodic touch.
The songs “Pig” and “Louisiana Bayou” would lead to an extended encore break, but the many fans that remained through the interval would quickly be most handsomely rewarded as the clock approached 11.
Returning to the stage with a brief excerpt from “The Dreaming Tree” before revisiting Before These Crowded Streets a fourth and final time for an inspired version of “The Last Stop,” DMB brought the proceedings to an electrifying conclusion with with an eight minute rendition of “All Along the Watchtower” with a healthy dose of “Stairway to Heaven.”
Having experienced this previously at other Matthews shows, it would be a significant understatement to not emphasize exactly how electrifying it is to hear the Dylan/Hendrix classic intertwined with Zeppelin’s iconic masterpiece by a band of such pedigree.
The Dave Matthews Band summer tour continues Friday night with a show in Phoenix before headlining the Kaaboo Music Festival in Del Mar the following day.