2008 Tour Notes
By Jake Vigliotti
Notes on the 2008 DMB Tour
A note about Roi
It isn’t easy to write this year’s wrap-up given the tragedy that struck LeRoi Moore. His passing has cast an ugly shadow on an otherwise sanguine season. In the end there is still much to praise and constructively criticize from the 2008 tour while still honoring the memory of Roi.
I usually write little notes to myself during the tour; good performances, who is doing what, which version of a song is the best, etc. My first note was that Roi Moore was at the top of his game in 2008. All his performances this year were superior to prior years. Just look at You Might Die Trying. There’s a song that doesn’t immediately jump to your mind when you think – great Sax performance. Yet his performance is outstanding; just give a listen to Live Trax 13 - his sax work on YMDT is phenomenal. And that’s not even a song he’s known on! There’s a strange adage about going out on top; I don’t know if there really is a good way to ‘go’, but if being in your prime counts for something, that’s what Roi was.
A note about Butch
What does a band do when a member quits and the fans don’t care?
Yea, that sounds a bit harsh. Maybe I should back up a bit: I like Butch Taylor. I do. There are times when keyboards work very well with DMB songs. Was Butch overused? I think the overwhelming opinion around the DMB community was “yes”. However, we, in the fan community, said Taylor would be missed greatly on the 2008 tour. We were wrong.
There has been nary a scant peep about Butch and his keyboards. Sure, there are some random threads here and there on the message board, but the truth of the matter is that once the show starts, he’s forgotten. There’s no “damn, I wish there were some keys here”, or “I sure do miss that jam in Jimi Thing”. While the band is performing its like Butch never existed. In internet talk, he was IP banned and forgotten.
So what 2008 showed was that Butch – while he is a talented keyboardist – really didn’t add as much to the band as we thought. Lets take Grey Street,for example. Opinions can vary, but are the keys-driven Grey Street’s better than the sans-Butch versions? The distinguished ear would say no. Is the absence of the keys jam on Jimi Thing hurting it? Nope. Even the Hal Gurney Network Time Killer The Space Between was tolerable – sort of like a broken leg is more tolerable then a compound fracture of the leg. Even a song that requires keys didn’t miss him.
Dave has gone as far as playing the piano for a few tunes, further illustrating that a keys player isn’t necessary for the band. The point is, whatever the reason for Butch’s absence, whether he just needed his space, or clear his space, or travel to space, it turns out we didn’t miss him. Too bad. Too bad for him.
A note about The Tour and US
Ever read Gulliver’s Travels? The Lilliputians? How about Northern Ireland? Ever hear of Christianity? They’re all like the DMB fan. DMB fans worship the same god, but have two distinct sects; those who hate Everyday, and those who hate Stand Up.
It’s difficult to quantify how ‘great’ a tour is when you consider those factors. Can 2008 be better than 2000? Did the overuse of Bayou, Old Dirt Hill, and Die Trying ruin its chances? Or was it the return of The Space Between and Sleep To Dream Her?
The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. It’s no secret that I’m an Everyday basher – but I will attempt to be fair. I think that there are some – like myself – that see ED as the downfall of DMB as a major player – three nights at Giants Stadium became one night at Randall’s Island. A third-grader with a fridge magnet set could’ve written deeper lyrics then those that popped up on Stand Up - is there even a song on there that doesn’t repeat a lyric or similar line? Is there? I don’t think so.
For the 2008 tour DMB broke out Water/Wine Jam, Pay For What You Get, and dropped a few Recently’s and a Help Myself or two on us, and an unreal run of Halloween, but we get more wrapped up in what crap-song they played: Why?
The argument goes back to how we feel about the band; you know you’ve thought to yourself, “If I hung out with Dave, we’d be fast-friends!” We fans feel like we have a personal relationship with the band, and if they do something that throws us – like for some reason dropping a Sleep To Dream About This Song Finally Ending or Stolen Away From A Willie Nelson Song - we take it personally. How could you do that to me? Where’s Raven?
We’ve all done it. Is it a bad thing? In the big-picture of the universe, it isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s like the old adage; we kid because we care. As long as fans keep talking DMB, and going to shows, they can pretty much play what they want. And we can keep complaining and listening to the next show, and buying our tickets.
The last part of that is the key; tickets. It’s no secret that some shows have been less than sold out. Columbus was sparse, Hershey looked like a chocolate-boycott was going on, and Raleigh… Raleigh! Come on, Raleigh? No new album since 2005 + indifferent 2005 album + unpopular 2001 album = not a lot of buzz for a DMB show. It’s like I said a few years ago, there’s a fine line between playing what they want and playing at the Ramada off Exit 148. The answer to the complex question is probably: If you are going to mix in unpopular songs from unpopular albums, better keep it to a minimum.
A note about Tim
Have I even mentioned Tim? Remember him?
It had been 10 years since Tim played with the full DMB, and that was only on a brief tour that winter (of 1998). Where have you been, Tim?
Tim’s take on some classics - Rhyme and Reason and Proudest Monkey - really gave the songs a nice, new twist. Everything Tim added was outstanding. How evil did some of those Halloween’s sound? I don’t know how, but somehow, Tim Reynolds has to tour with DMB in 2009. Has to. That’s one person who will be greatly missed if he sits out 2009.
A note about Rashawn
Rashawn Ross was nothing short of spectacular in 2008. There was a general feeling of take-him or leave-him. Ross more than proved his merit. His play highlighted Drive In Drive Out and the dreaded Louisiana Bayou, the muted-trumpet sound added to So Damn Lucky really gave it a nice vibe.
If DMB were a sports team, I’d give the team MVP to Rashawn. I know I said it a few months ago during a podcast, but I really think it’s true. He provides backup vocals, his accents to songs have been stellar, and he’s greatly improved the sound of DMB. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve always thought that a Trumpet belongs in a High School Marching Band only, but Rashawn proved to me that I’m wrong; DMB needs Rashawn. He needs to keep doing what he did in 2008.
A note about cover songs
And the covers! Yes, there were a thousand complaints about, :”DMB should cover DMB” (creative, really – especially the 72nd thread that proclaimed that), but the covers were really out of nowhere. And then when you thought you’d heard all the covers, half way through the tour, they drop The Talking Heads “Burning Down The House.” I don’t even like Sledgehammerand I thought the DMB take was outstanding. I like the DMB version, but not the Gabriel version. Cover songs get a thumbs up here.
A final note
Given all the factors, how great is 2008? After factoring all the notes in, the returns – good and bad, Tim, Roi, et al., 2008 eclipses 2000. Yea, I said it. Both got redundant in parts, but you can’t sell 2008 short – the performances were outstanding.
Yes, only one Shotgun all year (Damn you SPAC, Damn you straight to Hell!), but I think Cornbread and Eh Hee have really taken off with fans. Yes, the bitter boards tend to frown upon them, but the songs get a very positive reaction from fans during shows – a true sign that a song ‘works’ live (unlike Bayou which gets a Bronx Cheer most times).
On a side note: Am I the only one who hears the lyrics to Eh Hee as “… but the Devil has Mandy Moore?” I know, he doesn’t say that, but I hear it every time.
So I ask how does DMB top 2008? In reality, they probably can’t. The tragedy, emotion, mood, that can never be achieved again (thankfully). 2008 will be looked upon as a cornucopia of emotions – the highest of highs, the absolute lowest of lows. The best we can hope for is an album in ‘09, and a great tour without the drama.
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