Funk/folk fusion keeps Dave Matthews Band in the game

Dave Matthews Band Photo by Andy Argyrakis
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It’s not exactly a rare occurrence that Dave Matthews Band is on the road, though every time the band releases a new studio album, there seems to be a little extra bounce in its step. That proved to be the case once again as the troupe debuted several tunes from its eighth long player “Away From The World” (RCA) at Chicago’s sold out, frat-house converted United Center, though there were naturally plenty of past jams on the ever changing set list to keep long time listeners on their toes.

Yet even with the abundance of both old and new material, it was still shortsighted that DMB skipped out on several of its biggest hits.

Dave Matthews Band

Photo by Andy Argyrakis

After opening with the funk-saturated brass blasts of “You Might Die Trying,” “Spaceman” and “Cornbread,” the group turned to today for the ten minute momentum build of the moody “Drunken Soldier.” Though the pace of the evening would frequently shift between the briskly-paced and slowly marinating grooves, the show truly hit a stride with “Grey Street,” a soulful odyssey that exploded with fiery improvisations.

On a softer note, the new “Mercy” served as a textbook DMB ballad, while a little later, “Everyday” earned an ambitious rearrangement that stomped with spicy Cajun flavoring. The group also let its affinity for the Crescent City shine through on “Shake Me Like A Monkey,” while also flexing its musical muscles across the entrancing jazz cut “Crush” and soaring with the sing-a-long “What Would You Say.”

Yet even with the abundance of both old and new material, it was still shortsighted that DMB skipped out on several of its biggest hits. Of course, that wasn’t a surprise for anyone who’s seen the band before and frequent customers probably didn’t care, but more casual fans surely missed confections like “The Best Of What’s Around,” “Too Much,” “Crash Into Me” and “The Space Between” (to name a mere handful).

At least the group closed the initial portion of the night by dusting off “Ants Marching,” but rather than a paint by the numbers radio version, expanded it with remarkable instrumental dexterity. That trend appeared once again in the encore as Matthews and company delivered Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” with incendiary gusto, suggesting that touring for all these years hasn’t just made the band a major box office draw, but also one of the most musically sound of its generation.