Reviewed on Tuesday April 15
Gary Clark, Jr. sure knows how to play a mean guitar. The rising star of blues rock performed some amazing solos in the support slot, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a crowd so unnervingly still during a gig before – looking down from the stands, it was like Clark was performing for a garden of statues. Nor was he much of a talker, which might have contributed to the slow start. Still, an exceptional musician worth checking out.
When the lights at last dimmed and Dave Matthews lurch-danced onto stage, there was a great deal of anticipation in the air. It’s been seven years now since he last visited Sydney, and since then the band has tragically lost one of its founding members, saxophonist LeRoi Moore, and gained three more: Rashawn Ross, Jeff Coffin, and the inimitable Tim Reynolds on guitar. It was an ensemble that many of us were hearing for the first time, and though there was not quite the same energy as in the early days, the band still knows how to blow the roof off a joint.
From the (somewhat surprising) opening number ‘Squirm’, the audience was on. It was a sea of waving arms pierced by strobe lights and the flash from countless selfies, of stomping feet and sing-alongs; and for over two-and-a-half hours DMB kept us all enthralled. ‘Don’t Drink The Water’ was an early addition and clear crowd favourite. Of course, it’s always the songs that built a band that get the audience roaring. The opening bars of ‘Satellite’ did just that, even though the performance itself was one of the weaker versions I’ve heard. Part of this I chalk up to (yes, the tremendously talented) Reynolds. Outstanding as he is, his contribution to damn near every song was not just unnecessary, but muddying. The only times he wasn’t drowning the violin was when Boyd Tinsley took centre stage for his solos (such was his exuberance playing ‘Dancing Nancies’ he actually dropped the bow at one point).
Personal highlight? Back-to-back classics; ‘Jimi Thing’, ‘Crash Into Me’ and ‘Ants Marching’ (and the best ‘You Might Die Trying’ I’ve heard. Period). A soaring performance from one of the best live bands on the planet. Fingers crossed it won’t take another seven years to see their return.