Written by Bill Whiting
Photos by Scott Preston
The return of the Dave Matthews Band, after a year long hiatus from the road, at Cincinnati’s Riverbend Music Center on May 29 had many on an early summer’s night in high spirits. Matthews seemed to be soaking up the electricity in the air as his group launched into a fierce one-two punch of the dazzling composition “Sweet” into “You Never Know.” The percolating strains of “You Might Die Trying” had the crowd on the lawn dancing feverishly. Matthews interaction with bassist Stefan Lessard and drummer Carter Beauford hit many high points on the revealing classic, “Rhyme and Reason.” A pulsating “Granny” shook the pavilion, and Tim Reynolds provided many tasty lead guitar licks on the bruising bouncer, “Why I Am.” Fiddle master Boyd Tinsley shared solos with sax player Jeff Coffin on the linear, jamming masterwork, “#41.” The DMB, as they are affectionately dubbed, are one of the highest grossing improvisational musical acts in the United States, and they pounded their way through the timeless jewel, “Tripping Billies,” with solid precision, taking the standard to rarified jazz rock heights. Pausing to catch his breath, lead singer Dave Matthews strummed and sang the sixties nugget, “Whiter Shade of Pale” as if he had been crooning to an audience of one. A boisterous turn on “Jimi Thing” brought Tinsley to the front of the stage once again, and Beauford’s solid, grounded percussion held, as an anchor, while the DMB ship set sail on a loose and limber rendition of their first radio hit, “What Would You Say.” As their set wound down, the Dave Matthews Band had one last trick up their sleeve, and they stunned the Cincinnati faithful with a rewarding mix of shuffling time changes, and astonishing instrumental passages on the winning barn burner, “Two Step.” Encoring with a nod to Bob Dylan on the darkly poetic, “All Along the Watchtower,” the Dave Matthews Band set the standard in Cincinnati on May 29, and left their expanding fanbase in rabid anticipation of next summer’s blockbuster tour.
Setlist: Sweet, You Never Know, You Might Die Trying, Rhyme and Reason, Granny, Why I Am, #41, Seven, Mercy, Tripping Billies, Whiter Shade of Pale, Gaucho, Jimi Thing, What Would You Say, Time Bomb, Two Step Encore: Squirm, All Along the Watchtower