The Dave Matthews Band played a long, gracious set at the Austin360 Amphitheater on their May 22nd visit to the Capitol city.
Humbled yet vicious, the act seemed to be reinventing itself ever since allegations against former violinist Boyd Tinsley surfaced before the summer tour began. A lawsuit seeking $9 million in damages is in play to shake out the details and potential misconduct. While the band remained silent on the subject throughout the night, the absence of the formidable violinist – who is an integral part of the Dave Matthews Band sound – was obvious, especially on trademark tracks such as ‘Ants Marching.’ Meticulous play from each and every musician that night, however, overshadowed the complaints and helped the group regain footing and fandom during this period of reawakening.
A handful of lifelong fans decided not to attend the show, with one saying, “This could be the beginning of the end. If the band knew of these claims and waited until after the fan club tickets were sold; and the Ticketmaster site announced pre-sale tickets were available before they made their statement that Boyd was no longer part of the band, I think that is upsetting.” The official statement from Boyd Tinsley read, “I need to take a break from the band and touring to focus on my family and my health.” A rep for The Dave Matthews Band said, “Though Boyd is no longer a member of the band, we are shocked by these disturbing allegations and we were not previously aware of them.”
The Dave Matthews Band has always evoked feelings of freewheeling fun and jam-band dancing for fans of all ages. The oft-muttering, somewhat split-personality-on-stage, Dave Matthews is the centerpiece, but as one fan emphasized to me, “It is not just Dave Matthews, it is the Dave Matthews BAND.” The show put on this pleasant night by serious, professional musicians showcasing their talents clearly supported that statement. Though the reported behavior by one of their own was filed by a trumpet player in a side project, the DMB chose to let its music and actions on stage speak louder than any legal words.
‘Squirm’ may have been apropos as the first song of the night due to the sudden lineup shift and reasons for it, including lines such as, “For a moment, if you please, forget what you believe.” Dave nonetheless danced a little jig to ‘Hello Again’ from 2005’s ‘Stand Up’ album, kicking off this reincarnation, with that song’s opening lyrics, “Sinnin’ I’ve done my share of this, still I hope the Lord forgive me my sins.” What exactly we were watching the band repent for and morph into was yet to be seen.
Dave, the shamanistic South African musical maniac, exerted more control than in past years to reveal the stellar team he fronts this tour. While he swapped between a six-string dreadnaught and a tiny twelve-string, he still bewildered the crowd with weird statements such as, “I’m not afraid of bugs. Except horseflies. Because the only reason they wanna come near you is to eat you.” Dave also pushed his mates forward to let them show their chops and put paid to any notion they appeared to be aloof about the revelations or unresponsive to their fans’ expectations of a solid performance.
“Buddy Strong, the newest Dave Matthews Band member… stole the show with some astounding keyboard and pedal steel guitar solos.”
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones’ saxophonist and Grammy Award winner Jeff Coffin thundered through his brass blowpipe and also helped Dave provide some comic relief with chuckles about his so-called “bucket of phucket.” Tim Reynolds, swapping classic guitars from a Flying V, to a Fender Strat, to a Les Paul, to a Telecaster, was the lead guitar maestro who ripped through the funky, long jam of ‘Pantala Naga Pampa / Rapunzel,’ an old-time Calypso-beat ramble with trumpets screaming from Rashawn Ross and the rhythm pounding from drummer Carter Beauford and bassist Stefan Lessard. Buddy Strong, the newest Dave Matthews Band member, joined the team for the release of the new year’s album ‘Come Tomorrow’ and this 2018 tour as the keyboardist and sideshow provocateur.
Strong, a Robert Randolph meets Jimmy Smith meets Ray Charles magician, stole the show with some astounding keyboard and pedal steel guitar solos. He garnered this statement from Dave Matthews directly to his fans: “You broke the surprise and I want to introduce my new friend Buddy Strong, our Hammond B3 player.” His addition to the DMB adds a layer to the team that has not been a permanent part of the act since 2008 when Butch Taylor left his full-time role.
Though the news about the DMB has been awkward, they rolled out the popular hits such as ‘Satellite,’ ‘The Space Between’ and ‘Crash Into Me’ – hits that were created on average more than twenty-years ago. Dave was thankful for the audience’s loyalty and their ability to enjoy the show without focusing on a new direction or on outside chatter.
After a great performance from musicians continuing to prove their mettle from town to town on a new tour in 2018, as an aging musical group that was originally founded in 1991, and with band members coming and going for whatever reasons – albeit some publicly described as completely inappropriate – one can now literally wonder aloud, with all the fans this act has pleased and entertained across the globe, if you were Dave Matthews, ‘What Would You Say?’
Cover photo by Greg Lemen