Thankfully, the only thing chilly about Dave Matthews Band’s Saturday show at Saratoga Performing Arts Center was the weather.
Usually, Matthews and company plays the venue later in the season, towards the end of June, which usually guarantees good weather. This year the band opened SPAC’s summer concert season, and temperatures dipped into the low-to-mid 40s for the first night of the band’s traditional two-night stand in the amphitheater. Not much can dampen this band’s spirits, though – or the spirits of their legions of screaming fans, who dutifully filled the venue once again, helping to create yet another memorable show.
If you’ve seen DMB at SPAC before (and let’s face it — if you were at the show last night you probably have), none of this performance was really new. Matthews and the rest of the group — drummer Carter Beauford, bassist Stefan Lessard, violinist Boyd Tinsley, lead guitarist Tim Reynolds, trumpeter Rashawn Ross and saxophonist Jeff Coffin — stuck to their jam band guns, stretching out on a number of longish set pieces, throwing in some short rockers and ballads for good measure, and even rolling out a few hits. It’s a formula, but within the formula there’s room for moments of spontaneity, such as the 20-plus minute jam on “Seek Up” that opened the show, or the “This Land is Your Land” quote in the middle of “Don’t Drink the Water.”
Matthews was in fine voice tonight, peaking at the third song “The Idea of You” and not letting up for the rest of the two hour-plus set. His vocalizing suited the ballads best, bringing emotional weight to “Where Are You Going” and the slow-building “Spaceman,” which morphed into a funk freakout at the end to segue into the always energetic “Cornbread.”
The band is named after him, but Matthews is not really the most exciting thing about this band’s live shows. The excitement comes from the other six members of the band pushing and pulling at each other, bending Matthews’ relatively simple tunes into mind-melting exercises in improvisation and energy. Everyone got a chance to shine, from Coffin and Beauford’s duet to open up “Say Goodbye,” to Reynolds’ snarling slide leads on “Drunken Soldier” towards the end of the set.
They all came together for one last epic jam on “Jimi Thing,” which didn’t close out the main set but probably should have. The solos cycled through the whole group, from Ross to Coffin to Reynolds to Tinsley and back — even Matthews took a vocal solo, scatting into the microphone as the crowd roared its approval.
New Orleans funk rockers Galactic took the stage promptly at 7, tasked with the unenviable job of warming up a very cold (literally) amphitheater. The seven-piece pulled this off with flying colors, quickly winning over the audience members that slowly trickled in with a half-hour set heavy on extended grooves and tasty horn licks, courtesy of saxophonist Ben Ellman and trombonist Corey Henry. The band really hit its stride when vocalist Corey Glover of Living Colour fame stepped to the mic for a number of songs. The hard grooving “You Don’t Know” built to a fiery conclusion, with Glover’s high notes competing with Henry’s trombone lines for the spotlight. New song “Hey Na Na” was another barn burner, with Glover’s performance egging the crowd on to another heady climax.
Dave Matthews Band and Galactic will play SPAC again tonight at 7.