Tour Thoughts thru 4
By Sean Balogh
2015 is an important year for the Dave Matthews Band. No, there’s no anniversary (the 10 year mark of Stand Up notwithstanding). There aren’t any especially remarkable shows planned a la Red Rocks or a 4 night MSG run. Instead, the success of this year’s summer tour in the United States is, with any likelihood, indicative of the direction of the future of them as a musical entity.
With that importance in mind, I aim to recap each week of the tour with my own opinions and thoughts, and share them publicly for all to read. I may be disagreed with, I may be called a bitter washed up fan, but the only thing I will try to be is unbiased and upfront. So, without further adieu,
Week One: Dave Changes Professions
This just in: Dave Matthews, yes THAT Dave Matthews, is no longer a musician. As it turns out, he’s turned in his Rockbridges and received a brand new CAD supscription and hammer. His nighttime pastime, I’m speaking of course of a roller coaster designer, must be pretty lucrative to woo Dave away from the throngs of fans willing to spend thousands of dollars on ticket sales, merch, and album sales in favor of giving people massive smiles and laughs only to suddenly drop the floor out from under them and make them wish they’d just stayed home that morning.
I’d like to direct your attention to the first piece of evidence, the Tour Central page here on Ants. Right there on the front page, before ever venturing into the setlists from night to night or what song debuted when, we’ve compiled two fairly indicative calculations. Right after the venue name is the show rating and then next to that is the show flow.
The rating is a pretty straightforward number, simply an average of the ratings given to that particular show. Looking at the tour so far, the tour opener is the lowest rated show of the tour with a rating of 3.86 out of 5 (for reference, the lowest rated show from 2014 was a 3.88 at Milwaukee). The next two shows of the tour trend upward, and dramatically at that. Dallas on Friday night is sitting pretty with a 4.48, and then Houston on Saturday bests that with a 4.62 (2014’s best was Gorge n2, with a hefty 4.6).
The next number is slightly more insightful. Called the showflow, the number is a calculation of how many songs at a show fans would want to hear (song scores a +1), avoid (-1), and have no feeling one way or the other (0). If a show has 20 songs, and the average score per user is a +10 then the show receives a 50% showflow. The tour opener in Austin currently has a 41%. Or put another way, the average fan reviewing the show views the set as having more songs they want to avoid and not hear at a concert, than the opposite. Again, we see this number increase noticeably through the next two shows. Friday’s show has a 58% showflow and Saturday’s a 54%. After that, Arkansas’ performance drops to a paltry 15%.
This is what we can come to expect from the band now, I suppose. There’s every bit of evidence to support the claim the band is fully aware of what makes a great show great. A solid setlist with enough (3 or so) of the band’s best songs (Dreaming Tree , Stone, #41, Crush, Spoon, Proudest Monkey, Pig, BOWA, Last Stop, Captain…) mixed with the popular chart-topping hits the casual fan will be familiar with (Funny The Way It Is, Satellite, that hugely successful single off Away From The World…) is a great start. Put outstanding songs in the power slots of openers, closers, and follow that with a strong encore and a great show is really starting to build. Throw in an interesting guest (Robert Randolph, Warren Haynes, Vusi Mahlesela) and maybe a little bit of something rare and special, and a fan favorite it is sure to be.
They’ve proven they can do this, even recently. Take a look at 6.29.2013, the band’s second night of a two night stand in Camden, New Jersey. Good songs? Check (Crush, #41, Ants, Halloween, Oh, Pig). Casual favorites? Check (Crush, What Would You Say, Why I Am). Power Slots? Mostly. (Dreamgirl opener is a weak way to open the evening, but followed with the driving force that is Drive In, Drive Out and then fan favorite Joy Ride it’s largely forgivable. The main set closing run of Typical Situation, Ants seguing into Halloween is unstoppable, and then the unbelievably strong encore of Oh, Lie In Our Graves and then Pig is, more or less, one of the best encores this band has ever written). That show was less than two years before tonight’s show.
What does the next week have to offer? In a nutshell, absolutely nothing. Opening with a cover is a ballsy move. It didn’t pay off. A quieter tune to follow is another downward turn. The unremarkable set I closer (What Would You Say) and the predictable second set opener of Don’t Drink the Water leave a lot to be desired. And then, to top it all off, the closing run of Mercy, Jimi Thing, Drunken Soldier, Save Me, You & Me, and then Stay, the latter four with The Lovely Ladies, will probably be the most embarrassing run of this tour when you include the single song encore of All Along The Watchtower and the fact that the encore was (allegedly) written as Some Devil, Minarets, Watchtower.
Of course, any of this can be undone with the appearance of three ladies on stage. Simply put, they’re the worst thing to happen to the Dave Matthews Band. They add absolutely nothing to any song they’ve appeared on, and more often than not they detract from the performance of an otherwise acceptable song. Sledgehammer is tolerable in a live full-band setting. Add in the Lovely Ladies on stage, however, and the bathroom line is longer than the exit ramp out of Tampa before a hurricane.
The views and comments expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of antsmarching.org.