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DMB Invade Central Park

More than 85,000 attend New York show

For most of the night, the Dave Matthews Band’s Wednesday night
performance on the Great Lawn in New York’s Central Park was an
oversized throwback to the uncomplicated DMB delirium of the late
1990s: a stadium-overflow audience of more than 85,000 people
singing along in unison as if they were all packed into the old,
long-gone Wetlands club; a set list of crowd favorites drawn almost
entirely from the group’s first three studio albums, when producer
Steve Lillywhite was still in the chair; the leader saying little
more than a whole lotta “Thank you,” dressed like the ultimate
Everyman in a gray shirt and nothing-special trousers, except that
he was standing on the ultimate stage, “in the greatest park in the
greatest city in the world,” as he remarked at one point, in a
happy growl.

Then, a little after 9 p.m., protean guitarist Warren Haynes —
Gov’t Mule boss and half of the lead-guitar heaven in the current
Allman Brothers Band — walked on stage, bringing the heavy blues:
a torrid version of Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer,” a rarely
played DMB cover and surely never played by them like this. Haynes
and Matthews sang alternating verses, each in his own death-rattle
register, and Haynes tore up the crisp night air with long lines of
fiery guitar, arcing screams of fear and bloodlust. Haynes also
stuck around to spice up a long romp through “Jimi Thing,” taking
the DMB’s jazz-funk jump way down South with an extended,
chicken-cluck-R&B break, before Matthews suddenly led everyone
into another surprise: a version of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What
It’s Worth, sung over the tandem drone of Boyd Tinsley’s violin and
Leroi Moore’s saxophone.

The Young and Springfield covers, combined with Bob Dylan’s “All
Along the Watchtower,” which ended the main set in thunderclaps of
dread, underscored the apocalypse, alcoholic combat, drunken
resignation and exhausted sadness in many of Matthews’ own songs:
“Don’t Drink the Water,” “Too Much,” “When the World Ends,” “Grey
Street.” For a guy who runs one of the biggest party bands in
America, Matthews has a lot of darkness on his mind. But he made a
point of not spreading it on too thick. Although he had released
his debut solo album — the dark, string-laden Some Devil
— the day before, Matthews did not play anything from it. And
there was very little recent music: only two songs each from last
year’s Busted Stuff and the controversial Glen
Ballard-produced Everyday.

Instead, Matthews took his band and the crowd back to the
pre-supersales, pre-9/11 innocence of Under the Table and
Dreaming
, running through six of the album’s eleven songs in
the middle of the set (including “Ants Marching,” “Dancing Nancies”
and “Warehouse”). In between an extended “Two Step” (from

Crash) — which featured Carter Beauford and Stefan
Lessard in high-stepping, bass-drums conversation — and that
mighty “Cortez,” Matthews also pulled out “Help Myself,” a number
he first performed in New York back in 1994, at the Wetlands. And
when it came time to turn out the lights and empty the park,
Matthews sent everyone home with “Stay (Wasting Time),” a song
about how the best way to hang tough is to hang together.

Central Park concerts — at least in the post-Be In/Jefferson
Starship era — are not known for their comfort and intimacy. They
are Events. And I still have nightmares about the weather and
wilding at the Diana Ross debacle years ago. Security inspections
at the main entrances to the Lawn, on the east and west sides of
the park, meant long lines and waits. But there was no pushing,
just patience. And although the concert was produced by AOL, there
was surprisingly little hype in evidence: no annoying banners over
the stage, no introductory remarks except for a couple of sentences
from Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The fans got good, clear sound, a
three-hour show and plenty of hits, for a good cause: the event
benefited music programs in New York City schools. In short, a fine
night in the greatest park in the greatest city in the world.

In This Article: Dave Matthews Band

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