As surely as the mercury spikes in May, the Dave Matthews Band will cross a stage in the North Texas summer. DMB, like the Texas Rangers struggling to stay above .500 or heat indexes north of 105 degrees, is a seasonal staple 'round these parts.
The Grammy-winning rock band from Virginia has been a going concern for many summers now — 31 of them, in fact — but, as with so much else in life, the rhythm of its regular return to Dallas was interrupted by the pandemic.
Saturday night’s sold-out appearance at Dos Equis Pavilion, before a rapt, rousing crowd, was the band’s first here in three years.
Perhaps it was a case of absence making the band’s collective heart grow fonder, but the sprawling, satisfying set, which clocked in at 15 minutes shy of three hours, was a visceral reminder of how Matthews and his bandmates — drummer Carter Beauford, bassist Stefan Lessard, guitarist Tim Reynolds, trumpeter Rashawn Ross, saxophonist (and University of North Texas alum) Jeff Coffin and pianist Buddy Strong — have built a reputation as a peerless live act.
The label “jam band” is tossed around as a pejorative, but those casually dismissing songs because of length or digression seem to overlook the fundamental point: Seven musicians, all vibrating on different creative wavelengths, unify around a common melody and use it as a launching pad for something extraordinary, as happened again and again Saturday night.
Acoustic guitar locked into bass snapped onto electric guitar anchored by propulsive drumming aligned with piano runs wrapped around a flourish of horns — Dave Matthews Band excels at irresistible melodies made more elaborate through the skillfulness of its players. To watch Reynolds tear out an extended solo during “Dancing Nancies” or Beauford deliver a trip-hammer drum freakout at the climax of “Crush” was to marvel at the mastery acquired over that three-decade span.
It felt like 2019 again at Dos Equis Pavilion as the Dave Matthews Band and its audience enjoyed the return to regular summer programming.
Indeed, whether it was the mammoth, nearly 15-minute “Seek Up” early in the night, or the laid-back excursions of “#41” or the euphoric one-two punch of “Nancies” and “Warehouse,” the 55-year-old Matthews (his quicksilver tenor in fine form) and his collaborators stretched and spun and soared among the notes, relying upon the intricacy of jazz and the immediacy of pop to forge something fresh.
Under restless, dazzling lights and in front of the video screens arrayed behind them, the Dave Matthews Band reached as far back as 1993’s Remember Two Things
(“The Song That Jane Likes,” “Satellite”) and as recently as 2018’s Come Tomorrow
, the band’s latest studio album — all of it held together by Matthews’ eternally goofy stage banter: “I was wondering when that Ferris wheel’s turning,” he observed, gazing out beyond the pavilion lawn to Fair Park. “It seems to be standing still — which is fine for buildings or trees. Ferris wheels turn, but apparently not this one.”
Even two, as-yet-unreleased songs — “The Only Thing” and “Madman’s Eyes,” neither of which seemed to make much of an impression on those gathered — could not blunt the night’s momentum, which hurtled along with pleasing speed. The band, from what could be glimpsed on the video screens behind and alongside them, appeared to be having just as much fun, grinning widely and laughing in between songs. (“Thank you for putting up with us,” Matthews told the audience at one point, which, given the ecstatic response, was a request as unnecessary as it was amusing.)
As has been the case in other live music settings in recent weeks and months, a profound sense of appreciation and gratitude — on both sides of the stage — was palpable.
The cumulative sensation was one of homecoming, a pleasurable return to familiarity and a gentle welcome into the warmer months. As Matthews himself sang during “Crush,” “In this moment/it feels so right.” In other words, bit by bit, through the long, slow grind of the pandemic and its aftermath, life is returning to what it once resembled.