Dave Matthews Band wrapped up their summer tour at the Hollywood Bowl Wednesday night with a show spotlighting tracks from their latest album, Away From the World.
It’s the band’s eighth studio album, and boy, how things have changed in the music world since they first hit the scene in the early ’90s. Matthews said to the crowd after the second song of the night, “We had a lot of fun making this record even though making a record is kind of a weird thing to do these days.”
But make a new record they did. The band clearly was eager to put a spotlight on their new music; nearly half of the concert’s set list drew from the Away From the World, but the new tunes weren’t met with significant enthusiasm from the crowd. There was an audible buzz of the chattering crowd during “Mercy” and “Sweet,” and it was during the first few chords of new songs that a stream of audience members filed down the aisles to grab another beer.
The first song that brought the whole audience to its feet and had everyone singing along was 2002 hit “Grey Street.” The band also brought down the house with an explosive rendition of “All Along The Watchtower” (prefaced by another nod to Jimi Hendrix as Stefan Lessard cranked out “The Star Spangled Banner” on the bass) and with “Jimi Thing,” which put on the night’s strongest display of the band’s beloved jam sessions.
Fans haven’t had much time to get to know Away From the World – it was just released Tuesday – but the band has been playing songs from the new record throughout their summer tour, and nothing has managed to stick with the fans like “You and Me” or “Funny The Way It Is” rapidly did after the release of their previous album, Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King.
But that doesn’t mean these songs won’t find a place in the collective of favorite DMB songs. This isn’t an instance like the mediocrity of 2005’s Stand Up – it just may take longer for fans to warm to the band’s latest record with its starkly different vibe from Big Whiskey. That 2009 album was an upbeat celebration (which felt appropriate following the death of LeRoi Moore – the band showed that they can still party in his memory). Away From the World is much more understated and restrained. Big Whiskey had catchiness on its side to turn some of its tracks into instant fan favorites.
Though none of the new songs were certifiable hits at the Bowl on Wednesday, there are definitely a few tracks on Away From the World that have the potential to win over DMB fans in time for the next tour. Here are three new Dave Matthews Band songs I can see becoming part of their tradition of made-for-live-jamming music:
“Belly Belly Nice”: This funky track is the one song on the new record that has a few drops of Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King’s mirthful sounds still in its system. At the show, DMB didn’t get adventurous with this one – the band played “Belly Belly Nice” pretty true to its recording on the album. But the always skillful trumpet playing of Rashawn Ross – who brought the instrument to rare high notes throughout the evening – showed promise that this song is jam sesh-ready.
“The Riff”: This song starts soft but about halfway through rockets into the violent riff for which the track gets its name. Its showcase of Boyd Tinsley’s fierce violin skills and Matthews’ range from smooth to growling vocals give it all the ammunition needed for a new DMB crowd-pleaser.
“Mercy”: The first single off Away From the World, “Mercy” didn’t hold the audience’s attention at the Hollywood Bowl, but it’s full of potential to become as captivating a pace-changer as “The Space Between” was last night, when Matthews played a beautiful, stripped down version of the 2001 song solo under one spotlight. With jam-ability continually being the qualifier for any fan-pleasing DMB song, this steadily building track can fit right in with the slow jam the band got into for this song, with Matthews at the piano. It’s a socially conscious song (“I know you can see all the world and the mess we’re making,” Matthews sings) that a crowd like U2’s fandom may be more eager to hear than the chill Dave Matthews Band followers, but I’d be surprised if its ultimate optimism never succeeds in winning over the legions of Daveheads.
Dave Matthews Band will continue their promotional push for Away From the World with an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Thursday night. The band also played new songs “Mercy” and “If Only” on Wednesday’s episode of Ellen.
Sept. 12 show at Hollywood Bowl set list:
“You and Me”
“Raven” (with guest Stanley Jordan)
“Dreaming Tree” (with guest Stanley Jordan)
“Belly Belly Nice”
“Star Spangled Banner”/“All Along The Watchtower”
“The Space Between”
Mumford & Sons release video for ‘I Will Wait’ — watch it here