Remembering Brixton 2009
By Jason Filatov
As an American Dave Matthews Band fan I have grown accustom to an experience most of us all know well. At a show in Hartford, the venue Iíve visited most often throughout the years, the energy of 30,000 fans seems impeccable when trying to imagine any other environment that could possibly be the thunder to DMBís lightning. Today in our country they are as big as a band can be and in order to satisfy paying concert customers it is essential to provide the capacity necessary to let everybody share in the tour.
However, in my first encounter with the band on the other side of an ocean, I learned that the environment overseas changes drastically and provides a more intimate setting for the band than I ever envisioned.
I havenít been a big traveler over the last few years, but when I did go overseas it was to visit my family who had moved in 2008 to a borough in West London called Chiswick. Of course, I had scheduled my visit so that the trip would intersect with a few DMB dates and I was fortunate enough to pull tickets for both nights at the O2 Academy in Brixton. The second night was the better of the two, an overall more interesting experience, and my first concert seeing the boys alone.
Brixton is in South London and certainly struck me as a pretty enjoyable late night area. There seemed to be a bar every few doors on my walk from the tube to the venue. I got off at my stop around 4:00 with the show hours away, and for the first time I had the ability to find a good standing area with O2 Academyís general admission seating. When I reached the line, there were only about 10 people in front of me, compared to the typical thousand you would imagine lined up at a general admission show in the U.S. by that time. I decided to take an extra half hour to find myself a bite to eat, and for first and only time at this point in my DMB concerts, ended up bumping into band members. Dave and Rashawn were just getting out of a black van with a few crew members about to enter a door on the side of the venue. In the past, Iíd grown used to seeing the boys wave out of giant tour buses as fans waved eagerly hoping for eye contact and or maybe even a thumbs up, but here they were in open air and free for a quick chat. I didnít say much, just gave a thank you for the night before and expressed my excitement for the show ahead. On the outside the O2 Academy didnít look like much. The giant brick unit in the middle of a downtown area had the exterior look of a New York City concert ballroom or theatre, not much on the outside but rocking on the inside. As I waited in line and it got closer to show time, I noticed an interview being conducted with a fan about fifty feet behind me using a professional cameraman. There was a buzz around that there was going to DVD of the nightís show, but with the amount of cameras I see at shows in the U.S., I didnít want to be too hopeful.
When I finally got through the door and hustled to my spot about three rows back on the left side of the stage, I noticed how magnificent O2 Academy actually was. It had the brilliant luminosity of an aged European cathedral and appeared comparable to a more relaxed Radio City Music Hall in regard to shape and size. Instead of a bright golden dome the building was full of dark and obscure design, and instead of a neat collection of heads in seats, there were hordes of heads, bobbing as knees stretched and drinks disappeared.
I noticed a distinct difference in the crowd beyond just the English accents that rattled in every direction. People were excited clearly, but it wasnít the usual Dave Matthews Band group of hardcores that you find in the pit at shows in the U.S. People were talking about the last time the band had came through a few years ago and how long they had waited for another opportunity to hear them live again. There was an evident anxious separation between the band and fans that I had never considered with the band coming through my area every year. I realized I complain about waiting a few months for DMB to roll through my area, while these people normally had to wait far longer to enjoy what I experience regularly. While a fan in the U.S. might be tired of hearing Satellite every few shows, these fans were fervent in the opportunity to hear a hit that was rarely played in their country.
After Alberta Cross, a rock act from New York worked through a set of about 10 songs, fluctuating chants began reminiscent of the crowd at the beginning of Everyday from Live Trax 10 show from Portugal. The band continued the tease for a little longer after finally reaching the stage. A few light strums later the band elevated O2 Academy with a booming Donít Drink the Water, with Daveís wails often transforming to violent screech. Following that, English fans got their first taste of Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King for the night with Squirm, which Iíve had come to admire as one of the masterpieces from the bandís newly released albums.
After the two first songs the fans got a snippet of Davespeak and I began to realize a different type of thankfulness and attitude from Dave than Iím used to. The band seemed a little more flustered than usual, most likely because of a lack of familiarity. There were several cultural references made by Dave to try and connect with fans and I even remember one loud person yelling out, ďDave, you are our BeatleĒ, in an appreciative effort. I also noticed a little less professionalism on the stage with many of the band members, not in terms of music, but more in regard to crowd interaction. It seemed like the band had less of a ďtaking care of businessĒ attitude that Iíve grown accustom to over the years and more of a ďnice to meet you, thank you for listeningĒ attitude. The environment was not only smaller than what Iím used to, but also the connection between fans and the band was visibly more personal.
The rest of show had its surprises and featured a Crash-heavy set with a couple of unexpected plays. So Much to Say with a Too Much fake into Lie In Our Graves was the highlight of the night. A rising horn section during the LIOG jam following a ripping solo from Boyd led to an explosive crowd eruption in the middle of the song. It was the first summer that European fans had experienced without Leroi and after a salute from Dave during Why I Am, Jeff showed the crowd what he had a with a long and fantastic duel with Carter on #41.
On the previous day, news had spread that Michael Jackson had passed away and Dave gave his tribute with a gentle partial version of Iíll Be There, much to the delight of fans. The main set ended with a late set Lying in the Hands of God, another fantastic introduction to many English fans from the new album that segued into a blistering All Along the Watchtower. The band interpolated Stairway to Heaven and Dave chanted the finale lyrics that were unfortunately removed from the DVD for copyright purposes.
The show ended with three full band songs, a rarity on most summer tours. Gravedigger began, followed by the newly live Alligator Pie, only to be closed out with a celebratory Tripping Billies to finish a great two-night stand. Seeing the band overseas is an experience I truly recommend. Itís a type of DMB show that you wonít find often in America if youíre searching for an intimate concert encounter. I know that Europeans donít get to see the boys as much as we do over here, but the environment is one that I envy and I hope I someday get the opportunity to experience again. Make sure you watch Across the Pond, it is possibly the best DVD in terms of video quality that the band has released.
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