Despite being on the verge of a break up after the death of saxophonist LeRoi Moore last August, the Dave Matthews Band is now living up to its frontman’s assertion that its members are “getting on as good as we ever have.” Matthews and his bandmates – drummer Carter Beauford, violinist Boyd Tinsley and bassist Stefan Lessard – gave a powerful benefit performance chock full of solos and jam sessions Monday night (June 1) at New York’s Beacon Theatre to celebrate the release of DMB’s new album, “Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King” (click here for Billboard’s video interview with Matthews previewing the album back in April). The show was simultaneously broadcast live on Fuse TV, and save for the undeniable absence of Moore, the band appeared more unified than ever.
“Big Whiskey” is Dave Matthews Band’s first studio album since 2005’s “Stand Up,” and though the record was not officially released until today, fans at last night’s concert were singing along to every word of the new material. After opening the show with selections from the album like “Funny the Way It Is,” “Alligator Pie,” and “Spaceman,” Matthews smiled and said, “We’re really excited about this new record. We hope you all enjoy it too.”
Matthews’ trademark goofy but entertaining dancing is still alive and well. “The reason I dance is because I like to dance, not because I’m good at it,” cracked Matthews, who only took a break from his fancy footwork during “Out of My Hands.” The singer took a seat at the piano for that number and was joined by the band and guest musicians Tim Reynolds on guitar, trumpet player Rashawn Ross and Béla Fleck saxophonist Jeff Coffin, who played to the crowd with an energy that surely would have made Moore proud. “I don’t really know how to play the piano,” said Matthews, “so I surround myself with these awesome musicians who cover me up a bit.”
Matthews also got a little help from the crowd on vocals. “Every time I do something on TV, I get a cold,” he explained. “If you hear me struggling, just sing louder.” One never would have guessed the frontman was sick by the way he belted out “Why I Am,” “The Dreaming Tree,” and the intense, vocal-driven “You Might Die Tryin’.”
In addition to Matthews, Beauford’s intricate drum solos, Tinsley’s ferocious violin playing, and Lessard’s laidback bass funk kept the audience on its feet all night. One man appearing to be in his late sixties, with a long white beard and fluffy hair, drove his fellow concertgoers from the balcony to cheer louder each time the TV cameras sailed by. An extended jam session led into “Ants Marching,” a DMB favorite that regularly appears during the band’s encores, was followed by extended versions of “#41” and “Two Step.” The set ended with fans jumping, hands high in the air, already anticipating what songs the encore might bring.
A little after 11:30pm, the band left the stage and Matthews returned alone about five minutes later to perform “Rye Whiskey.” “I just love this song a lot so I’m going to try and squeak it out for you now. Thank you all for helping me sing tonight.” Though he struggled with the song, his determination was not lacking and the crowd appreciated his effort.
The rest of the band joined Matthews on stage for “Don’t Drink the Water” and “Grey Street,” concluding a three-hour set that went on longer than expected. Matthews finished by thanking the crowd as Beauford tossed multiple pairs of drum sticks into the elated crowd.
For those who were unable to attend, fans can watch the show in its entirety on the Fuse TV site. Fuse is also broadcasting a DMB documentary, “Dave Matthews Band: The Road To Big Whiskey,” in four parts tonight through Friday at 8pm ET.
Here is Dave Matthews Band’s Beacon setlist:
“Funny the Way It Is”
“Out of My Hands”
“Why I Am”
“The Dreaming Tree”
“You Might Die Trying’”
“So Damn Lucky”
“Anyone Seen the Bridge”
“Too Much” (Tease)
“Don’t Drink the Water”