It was a dark and stormy Friday; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when wind swept through the pavilion at the Comcast Theatre (the concert was held in Hartford), rattling along the tents of tailgaters in the parking lot and fiercely agitating the flame of barbecues for those who struggled to grill against the darkness of hunger and boredom.
It was the leftover of a tropical storm, and it rained Friday night. It rained a lot. But barring violent weather and general societal upheaval, the Dave Matthews Band concert at the Comcast Theatre would go on as planned.
The show was the first of two the band would play in Hartford this weekend, a regular stop for them that brings fans out in the thousands. Those who braved life, limb, and laundry for the concert Friday were rewarded with an expansive, three hour, 21 song set and encore that also premiered a new cover song.
While some of the songs played could be described as fan favorites, the phrase gets slippery with Dave Matthews Band. Every opening note was met with cheers, and everyone seemed to sing to every lyric of every song.
Concentric rings of lights tilted and flashed as the band opened with “JTR” before going into “Warehouse,” when technicolor strobes blasted out in time with Carter Beauford’s wailing on the steel drum. Aptly chosen videos of creepy eyeballs filled the stage’s screen for “Squirm,” before the suspended rings above the set began to shift during “Broken Things.”
“I hope some of you up on the lawn have managed to stay warm,” Matthews called out to the cheap seats before taking to the 12 string guitar for the live-only song “Idea Of You.” “Thanks for coming, I hope it warms up for you.”
Quite a few fans started the set on the lawn, Dave heads to the core determined not to let the downpour ruin the night. However by the midway point when “Big Eyed Fish” was played (with scenes of waves and water in the monitors- appropriate for the song, ironic for the night), many had left for the shelter of the venue’s concession building or snuck into the few open areas of the packed covered pavilion.
The first extended jam, a hallmark of Dave Matthews Band shows, happened next during “Bartender.” The song’s opening notes brought the crowd to fist pumping ecstasy, with a few overzealous fans dancing on concrete walls before being gently escorted down. The song’s 8 minute length was more than doubled, in no small part from a piccolo solo from Jeff Coffin. It may have been the most excitement inducing performance the small wind instrument had ever seen. Who knew people would be so enthusiastic for a tiny flute?
Another jam session during “Lie In Our Graves” brought fiddler Boyd Tinsley to the forefront, weaving from a slow elegance to frantic bowing over layers of drums and horns. Guitarist Stanley Jordan, who Matthews said first played with the band last year in Hartford, joined in later for “Dreaming Tree.”
A highlight was the unveiling of a cover of Tom Petty’s hit “Runnin’ Down The Dream.” The horn section took the song’s lead hook, while guitarist Tim Reynolds gladly blazed across the bottom of his fretboard through the solo. Matthews’s vocals worked perfectly, sounding like a slightly less-hazed out Petty.
The regular set ended with the band’s seminal hit “Ants Marching.” They came back for encores of “Drunken Soldier” and “All Along The Watchtower,” before setting the rapt audience out to fend for themselves among the deluge.
Dave Matthews Band’s second concert is set for tonight, Saturday, with openers The Head And The Heart starting up at 7 p.m.
The forecast looks a lot nicer.
Dave Matthews Band Setlist:
The Idea Of You
Kill The Preacher
Why I Am
Belly Belly Nice
Big Eyed Fish
The Song That Jane Likes
Lie In Our Graves
Runnin’ Down The Dream (Tom Petty Cover)
The Dreaming Tree
Rhyme And Reason
#36 / Everyday
All Along The Watchtower