On one of the first truly summer-like nights of the season, Dave Matthews and his friends strolled onto the stage at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Maryland Heights without a care in the world. There was no opening act, so the band – and the crowd – didn't have to wait through any changeovers before the main event.
The first stand-out moment of the show for me happened before a single note was played. Drummer Carter Beauford came out and just had a look that telegraphed how much fun he was having. The rest of the bad was energized, you could feel it, but in all the shows I've seen and covered, I can't recall anyone who looked like they were just enjoying themselves as much as Mr. Beauford was. And that lasted all night for him.
Along with Beauford and, of course, Mr. Matthews himself up front on vocals and rhythm guitar, this incarnation of the Dave Matthews Band consists of Stefan Lessard, the long-time bassist, Rashawn Ross on trumpets and Jeff Coffin on saxophone to bring in as soulful touch, Tim Reynolds on the lead guitar - lest anyone forget this is a rock show - and Buddy Strong on keyboards and organs. Strong, as a newcomer, brought a funk flare that wasn't even remotely out of place. The sound, like Strong himself, fit so seamlessly into the show, even longtime fans would be hard pressed to say it wasn't a natural fit.
The band kicked off with “That Girl Is You” and launched into the jazzy, jam-hit “#41” that gave everyone on stage a chance to stretch and get themselves all settled in for the incredible night ahead. Bouncing all over the discography – from modern tracks like “Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin)” and “Here On Out” to the older cuts such as “Jimi Thing” and “Satellite” – DMB made sure there was something for every level of fan, from the newcomer to the ones that drove five hours to see their hundredth show (possibly an exaggeration…but maybe not). Old or new, the crowd was along for the ride with every note as the night progressed.
About midway through the show, the Peter Gabriel hit “Sledgehammer” popped up, sounding amazing from this band, and just as fresh as the day it came out. “Shake Me Like A Monkey” had the crowd jumping, and “Fly Like An Eagle,” the Steve Miller Band cut, slotted in perfectly. Following a hauntingly beautiful rendition of “Grace Is Gone” (played for the first time on this tour), the main set of the night closed with arguably the biggest hit for DMB, “What Would You Say.”
Following a brief breather, the band jumped back in with the high-tempo, high-energy “Two Step” before moving straight into “Ants Marching” to close out the show, with the crowd handling supporting vocals with ease. The show wrapped up after nearly three hours of incredible performances from every member on stage, and roars of appreciation from the crowd.
There is no question that Dave Matthews and his band are amazing musicians. If there was any question about their abilities as live performers for someone walking in those gates Wednesday night, those questions were obliterated by the time the last notes faded away.