Arts & EventsBluesfest Gets All Kinda’ Groovy with the Dave Matthews Band

Bluesfest Gets All Kinda’ Groovy with the Dave Matthews Band

Bluesfest Gets All Kinda’ Groovy with the Dave Matthews Band

I’d never seen a man play two saxophones at the same time but, nawww, that wasn’t what was missing the last time I saw Dave Matthews and his band of merry music makers. Mid-way through his 2-1/2-hour RBC Bluesfest set it hit me. That little extra special dollop, that cheery on top, what was vacant at that stadium show from a few years ago wasn’t up on stage, it was all around me. It was the outside.

Now, don’t get me wrong, a DMB show would be fan’freakin’tastic if they were playing out of a Burger King broom closet but something about this music just lends itself to being listened too in the great outdoors. Even the seagulls were getting down! 

And so continued Dave week at RBC Bluesfest, only this night the jams were a little groovier than the alt-rock Grohlnado the Foo Fighters hit the Flats with the night before. With a bit of a thinner crowd people were able to find a patch to lay down their own personal vibe waves, arms swaying, body twisting like a funkified snake. I feel sandals needed to be involved…and lots of hipster tie-dye.

“DMB + Bluesfest = FINALLY” read a bright, yellow sign as close to Dave Matthews as the fan holding it could get without jumping the rail and getting tossed out onto the Parkway. Indeedy, this was another debut for the fest, one that’s been clamoured for a lonnnnnng time…especially considering when last the band rolled into in Ottawa our arena was still called the Corel Centre.

“It’s been a very long time and we’re very grateful,” said Matthews after a couple of cuts that seemed to melt into one long jam. If any band could pull off one continuous track, it’s this one. There’d be a lot more of those extended tunes later but, first, Dave had a revelation:

“I love visiting this very civilized country to the north of the one that I call home, so much so that on occasion I’ve wondered about moving up here.”

This elicited the expected response before Matthews rapidly turned the dial to the left in order to ask about something that’d been weighing heavily on his mind.

“I have a question for you, though. If I moved up here with my wife and children would you separate us?” the South African-born musician inquired, referencing recent events regarding immigration that are currently dividing the United States.

Matthews’ audience replied with a universal chorus of acceptance causing him to glance up at the Peace Tower and reply: “I didn’t think so. What a civilized and beautiful country this is.”

After getting political, Matthews gleefully proclaimed that it was “time to get goofy” before diving back into the jam pool (sound delicious!) with “What Would You Say” from 1994’s Under the Table and Dreaming. Though he’d tell the crowd that the show would be a mix of some of the older stuff and some of the newer cuts from recently release Come Tomorrow, a cover of Peter Gabriel’s of “Sledgehammer” would be the surprise addition that got the rest of the crowd up. Yuppers, even those lawn chair people! (See how fun it is?)

While some stops on the tour have featured more of the new than the hits, O-town’s DMB groove down would unpack a lot of favourites for the night’s jam journey. “Don’t Drink the Water”, “Ants Marching” and “Crash Into Me” jumped all over across the back catalogue. Unless they were waiting on a Floyd cover, one pink porcine balloon floating above the swaying bodies pleaded for Before These Crowded Streets cut “Pig” but no dice.

While many bands that have been around the block a time or trillion seem to just be going through the motions up there, Dave Matthews still looks like he’s getting incredible kicks from playing with his ensemble of awesomeness. Sometimes veering off into improvisational jazz territory with sojourns through the psychedelic, the group was so tight you’d have to pry the melody transitions from between them with a crowbar.

This was most evident on “Jimi Thing”, a jam that seemed to go on for close to 20-minutes with a little Prince tossed in for spice. The band duked it out inside a wall of sound, a soul shack shakedown, if you will, with Matthews anchoring all those funky vibes. New member Buddy Strong showed he could keep up with the band on keys, while DMB vets bassist Steffan Lessard and guitarist Tim Reynolds slipped effortlessly into the soulful slipstream. Drummer Carter Beauford popped bubble-gum and mugged for the cameras while keeping the beat and ohhhhh that horn section.  Rashawn Ross and Jeff Coffin often doubled up on the brass, sometimes blowing solos into two trumpets and saxes at the same time! Yeah, Jazz Fest got a double rainbow but RBC Bluesfest can boast a double sizzlin’ sax blast! Merrrrrrrcy!

“I’m the luckiest man up here,” Matthews said motioning to the talent that surrounded him. The playfulness of the band also made for some hilarious banter both on and off mic.

“The name of this song is’ Samurai Cop’ but it doesn’t have anything to do with that,” chuckled Matthews. “I just thought it was a cool name. No Samurai. No Cop. No law enforcement whatsoever. It is a terrible movie though if you’d like to see it sometime.”

New tracks like this and “She” held their own alongside the fan favourites and an appreciative Matthews repeatedly thanked his audience for their continued support for both the old and new music.

“Thank you for giving us a pleasant evening. We hope that we gave it back to you. Maybe if you have this party next year we can get invited too.”

Hey, Bluesfest, if you sign it, if you seal it, me and a couple thousand others have no problem delivering that invite!

So Much to Say
That Girl Is You
One Sweet World
Don’t Drink the Water
What Would You Say
Again and Again
Sledgehammer (Peter Gabriel cover)
Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin)
Jimi Thing (With sexy M.F.)
You Might Die Trying
Can’t Stop
Crash Into Me

Why I Am

You & Me

Ants Marching

Do You Remember

Pantala Naga Pampa


Comments (1)

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Shane July 17, 2018 2:57 pm

An amazing show... closer to a spiritual experience if I'm honest.