Dave Matthews Band
June 8, 2012
Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY
Fellow Unplugged Musings writer Drew and myself attended the annual Dave Matthews Band two night extravaganza at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in, you guessed it, Saratoga Springs, NY. We wanted to do something different than write the same old review that you read on a million other sites, so we decided to do a conversation of sorts about our own personal accounts of the show. We planned on doing both nights, but stopped after the first night once we realized just how bad the second show of this stand was. In fact, it was so boring and bland that there was nothing to tell you about. Or maybe that was just the alcohol. Anyway, enjoy our review of the first, and best, night of Dave Matthews Band at SPAC. The tour rolls on this Friday at Deer Creek.
Rob: For being in the Northeast, the crowd resembled a typical Miami sports crowd early on- late arriving. Proudest Monkey wasn’t my first choice for an opener, but at least it let people know that it was time to leave the beer stand and get to your seats. Rashawn and Tim always do good work on this song, and if I recall correctly, this version was no different.
Drew: I’ll concur with Rob here. PM is not a good opener. I prefer this midset, after a ton of heat. Rashawn is always clutch on PM, but here he is good to the point of being exceptionally whimsical in his solo. Tim has some nice accenting fills during the second verse, which lead into a very nice delay based solo which peaks really well.
Don’t Drink the Water
Rob: The real opener, if you ask me. Both crowd and band were locked in and rocked this one hard. I was interested to see what kind of shape Dave’s voice would be in coming off a demanding Mansfield run, and he killed it. One of my favorite parts of the newer versions of Don’t Drink the Water is Tim’s playing between the verses. He is almost mimicking Dave’s vocals to an extent. A very jazz/blues element to a hard rock song.
Drew: I want this song to take a break, personally. It brings energy, and it’s standard fan favorite, but I can do without it. I didn’t mind it after PM, seeing as this was the yin and yang of opening 1-2 combos.
You Never Know
Rob: One of my personal favorites of the weekend. No Carter intro, obviously, but it didn’t seem to matter. I kind of warmed up to the direct intro after hearing it live. Jeff hasn’t lost a step on this song, no surprise, and he continues to get stronger. If I closed my eyes, I could have sworn LeRoi was up there jamming on You Never Know.
Drew: Often considered one of the best songs written in the Lillywhite hiatus era, and there’s a reason for it. because it’s incredible. This is a massive highlight of N1, and that’s saying something given how strong this show is. Dave’s vocals are spot on, and Timmy’s fills during the chorus are beyond beautiful. Jeff made the sweetest of love to that horn solo. It’s almost unfair. I still get shivers going back, and listening to how locked in Jeff and Carter are. You don’t need the rim solo intro when the entire is this clutch.
Funny the Way It Is
Rob: I’ve fallen hard for this song this year. After getting beaten to death with it in 2009, all I needed was a year off from the tune to really come back to it, and it seemed like the band needed the same as well. Funny is starting to resemble Rapunzel in a lot of ways musically, particularly the tempo with which it is played. The extended intro has a great build into the song, making it even more rocking than it was before. I also appreciate how Boyd and Tim’s solos have become their own as opposed to a carbon copy of the studio version.
Drew: I don’t know if there is a version of this song I dislike (WHAT?!). The intro that has been starting to develop since the Caravans is a thing of beauty… almost ominous, and then mass drop out before the main song begins. Boyd and Timmy, specifically Boyd, did some pretty wonderful stuff during their solos, and I totally agree with Rob that they are beginning to make their solos their own. I think everyone in the town of Saratoga was singing at this point.
Rob: Very partial intro to Minarets, reminiscent of 1998 versions. There was even a short jam on the end of it as well which I haven’t heard in a while. I felt like the 2010 version of this song was a shell of its former self, but the 2012 edition brings that magic back. Jeff and Rashawn really bring that main horn riff to life.
Drew: I had never heard Minarets prior to this show, and was pleasantly surprised to hear this (even though SOMEONE with us doesn’t like Minarets…. Ali, I’m looking at you). The intro Rob refers to isn’t quite the full mute strumming with scat intro (which I pray comes back someday soon to an amphitheater near you TNK interpolation and all), but it was nice to see almost a prelude to this. Great version for my first. Please pay attention to Carter during the jam. I’m pretty sure at one point he taught the gum he was chewing to hold a stick, and it started drumming for him.
Rob: Standardly awesome on this night. I liked the placement of it, as it is really cool to get it early on in the set. Boyd’s new (old) acoustic violin really shined for the first time tonight, particularly in the outro as he plucked away adding a cool dynamic to complement Tim’s playing at that particular moment as well as the horns.
Drew: A top 5 song for me, and this was a decent version. I really wish Mercy and WWYS would have waited, and it segued into Say Bye because I think SPAC would have erupted at the classic segue, but I digress. This #41 was another key moment to show Dave’s vocals holding up really well (given how many times they’ve dropped Halloween, and the like, this tour). Boyd MVPs the hell out of this version, adding some incredible play behind Dave in the second verse.
Rob: First time hearing it live, loved it. Solid new song. Might almost be TOO small for an amphitheater type setting as people got a little chatty during the song. The jam is uplifting and perfectly layered. I can’t wait to see what happens when they decide to take it even further and explore the possibilities outside of the main groove they set in the outro jam.
Drew: In the words of Dave, it’s a tiny little song, and I’m sure everyone that listened to it too many times already hate it, but it has obnoxious amounts of potential. You can tell Lillywhite had a ton of input on this tune when they were crafting it in the studio. Every piece of the pie is separate, but comes together together to make something very beautiful. I was absolutely stoked, and thankful, that this didn’t go into OOMH (even though I mildly enjoy that song).
What Would You Say
Rob: Again, standardly awesome. Never tire of What Would You Say. For me, this is quintessential DMB through and through. The funky, unorthodox guitar riff, driving drums, and playful violin and sax lines make this the perfect live DMB experience. The crowd ate it up as well and responded to it perfectly after What Would You Say. Great setlist writing by Dave to put this energetic tune right after the delicate Mercy.
Drew: It’s WWYS. It’s impossible to not like this, and this version is no different. Totally agree that this was genius to come after Mercy. The What Would You Say end jam is one of my favorite DMB moments, and SPAC’s WWYS totally delivers in every way.
Rob: Very unexpected. One of the many surprises tonight. Dave struggled with the improv lyrics at times but the band didn’t miss a beat. Carter’s intro was once again top notch and made up for no intro on You Never Know.
Drew: Say Bye was great, and if this song doesn’t want to make you go out and make some bad decisions, then have fun with your many cats later in life. When Jeff kicks in, I remember asking Rob, “What the hell? It almost sounds like Tim!” The Say Goodbye intro never disappoints, and Carter was feeding off every ounce of energy the crowd was giving up. Dave was ….. Dave on this, granted this is supposed to be improv based on the verse lyrics, so take it with a grain of salt as you normally would for Say Bye lyrics.
Rob: The Shady Horns from Lettuce came out and added some beef to this sometimes overplayed song. I dig this funky little number. Drew will disagree, but remember folks, he actually paid money to see Pretty Lights live. That aside, Dave’s voice held up nicely and the horns added a fantastic layer to an already strong musical track.
Drew: The beginning of the only dark spot of this beautiful set. I hate this song. Lazy songwriting, and the music, bar Tim’s solo, bores the piss out of me. Let’s forget about the Pretty Lights business. I was drug along very unwillingly. The amount of Jameson consumed during that god awful Pretty Lights show would make my Irish ancestry proud.
Rob: Eric Krasno guested on this abomination of epic proportions. The lyrics suck, the music sucks, and the crowd (particularly the SPAC crowd) can’t stand this song. I gotta give Kraz credit, he salvaged what he could of it, but this song is so bad and unnecessary that it should never, ever be played. If Kraz didn’t know any better, I’d be embarrassed that this was what DMB chose to showcase him on. However, the Lettuce/Soulive guitarist has been around the block with DMB, so he knows what they’re all about.
Drew: Part two of the dark spot of the set. Another song I hate. Krasno was pretty great on this, which had me turning my head, and saying, “Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?” That’s about it. I made a few business calls, and answered a couple emails during Can’t Stop.
Shake Me Like a Monkey
Rob: More Shady Horn love. Dave broke out his kid-friendly “Fuck Me Like a Donkey” line at the end, which always turns some heads when people realize what he actually said. This song depresses me because when I first heard it, I heard Rapunzel Part II. Instead now we have Hunger For the Great Light Part II. Shake Me has a lot of potential that is not realized onstage unfortunately, but we’re going to have to move past that.
Drew: I would be lying if I said I wasn’t dancing. The song which was once hailed as some the best opening album music in ages can get me moving, in the best, or worst, way a skinny, Midwestern young man can. As Rob mentioned, the “Fuck me like a donkey” bit popped up. It’s weird. I’ve never thought of a donkey as something to bang like, during coitus.
Lie in Our Graves
Rob: Thank God. Finally. I looked over at Drew after Shake Me and said “Lie in Our Graves would be huge right here” just as Dave struck that opening chord. The pavilion erupted into a celebration much like the one the LA Kings had done. Hugs, high fives, and even some glowsticks (Yes, Phish fans, we do that too) in the pavilion. Boyd went to work once again as always and lit SPAC on fire with his solo. Don’t think I’ve ever heard a version of Lie In Our Graves quite like this. The band was oozing with energy and put it all into this performance. As the song reached its conclusion, Dave dropped the famous “til we dance away” line at the end that he used to in the 90′s. This was the punctuation mark on a very old school night in recent DMB memory. I’ve been singing “til we dance away” forever, and on this night Dave finally joined me.
Drew: SWEET BABY JESUS WAS THIS NEEDED! I hadn’t heard LIOG since ’09, but, DAMN, was this version on fire. Everything about this version didn’t suck. Dave’s vocals, Carter driving the jam, Boyd on top with the solos, and Tim dropping crazy fills. I will sing this version’s praises until the day I die. Honestly, it doesn’t get much better than “‘Till we dance away.”
You & Me
Rob: Shut your mouth. I raged this hard. YOU AND ME TOGETHER! YEEESSS!! YEEESS!!!! Okay, moving on.
Drew: Rob, I feel like our little group probably received some weird looks for this for our reactions here. It may not be Dreaming Tree, but screw it. I was still on a high from Graves, and enjoyed Y&M. Judge away, fake diehards… Judge away.
Rob: Boom. Stop time intro. Woo’s all around. Stefan and Carter fist pumping like they’re on the Jersey Shore. This is one of my favorite versions of Warehouse as well, just an incredible version. A theme I noticed throughout this show was how on-point the band was compared to most every show I’ve seen. They were in rare form, and this song is right up there with the best. The crowd broke into Louie Louie during the breakdown, much to the delight of Dave and Carter. Rashawn of course brought it home with his solo, which goes without saying.
Drew: A lovely little debut, and a great chance to find all the HIMYM Woo Girls! Love Warehouse, absolutely love it. The crowd doing Louie Louie was amazing, especially with Tim, Boyd, and Dave having little glances of teasing it. Again, there wasn’t a soul in attendance that was not singing here. Great version. I must tip my cap to Fenton. I’m not a huge fan of lasers, but they worked well here, for some reason. Keep your ears peeled for Boyd’s plucking fills before the jam. He was on fire tonight.
Rob: Perfect 1-2 punch to end a set. Warehouse > Ants. Doesn’t get any better than that. The whole venue was rocking during this staple, and Dave and the band played one of the best Ants I’ve ever heard. Scratch that- THE best version of Ants I’ve ever heard. Instead of the typical 1-2-3 jam they do before the outro, the band built it up to a huge peak and slammed right into the iconic horn section without stopping. It was as close to a Phish-like release as I’ve ever heard from them. Also, another aspect of this Ants I enjoyed was Dave scatting before the song actually starts. Instead of saying, “thanks and goodnight,” before dropping into the tune, Dave complemented Carter’s snare intro with some scatting. I’m usually not a big proponent of the Dave scat, but in this case, it worked.
Drew: I, typically, really dislike the recent versions of Ants, because Tim thinks it’s time to turn it up to 11. But I’ll echo Rob, and say this is one of the better Ants since ’08. If ever there was a way to keep the energy near exploding, Ants was how to do it. Now is around the time I began to notice this bro with a pageboy cap (no person in their right mind should wear this ever, unless you’re Justin Timberlake) enjoying time with a young female cohort. It added for some laughs while we raged Ants. Yes, raging to Ants is possible… very possible.
Rob: Awesome. Totally unexpected. Only about 90 seconds long but something I absolutely did not see coming. I like how he kept at it despite hitting a few bumps in the road lyrically. He could have stopped about 20 seconds in, but decided to push through and keep going. Well done, Dave.
Drew: I actually had to change my pants. I’ve seen couple #40 teases/partials, but nothing as long as this one. I got worried when Dave came out that it’d be Sister (wait, one more day… I was really pleased. /sarcasm), but this was just the start to one of the best encores they’ve played. I’ll fight for this one. Mildly enjoyed Dave mentioning “I still don’t know it.”
Rob: Out of all the tunes that were played this weekend, this is the one I can’t get out of my head. And it’s a new one! I love the groove. So infectious and smooth. Can’t wait to hear this on the new album.
Drew: I encourage everyone who hasn’t heard If Only yet, to go home and listen to this immediately. This damn song is beyond sexy. It’s the hot girl you want to ask to the dance, and she says yes. We got lost on the walk back, and there wasn’t a person in our group that wasn’t singing this.
Rob: I’ll go on record as saying I thought this was Corn Bread. Drew had to talk me off the ledge, and about 10 seconds into Carter’s solo, I believed him. Usually a Night Two staple, they dropped the H-Bomb on us right off the bat. The only question was: Would it go into Billies or not?
Drew: This was a defining moment in my DMB career, and most shows will be classified as BH (Before Halloween) and AHFM (After Halloween Face Melting). There was an eruption of wartime proportions when it kicked into the main riff post Carter solo. Around beginning of the second verse, my vocal chords were screaming in protest, but you can’t help but rage this. Yes, I did come close to flipping the whole venue when this popped up. Rob was only convinced it was Corn Bread because he was hoping Danny Barnes would make an appearance all weekend and drop some Road on us.
Rob: Towards the end of Halloween, I could hear elements of the Nature Intro starting to appear as led by Dave. Sure enough, seconds later the band broke into Tripping Billies and SPAC exploded. Probably the most “fun” song in the band’s repertoire, and it contrasts Halloween so well taboot. Boyd, once again, crushed it. The crowd got one last chance to eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Until Night Two.
Drew: BRILLIANCE! HalloBillies is an amazing combo, and this totally lived up to the hype. I’m still getting goosebumps at how loud it was from the audience coming out of Halloween and into Billies. Tonight was Boyd’s night. Screw everyone that continues to write him off. Boyd and his acoustic violin are owning 2012. Aside from the two dark spots, this show goes into my back log as the best show I’ve seen, easily. A great set, great performances, and one hell of a way for me to be fully introduced to SPAC.