Friday Night: Dave Matthews Band at The Woodlands

Dave Matthews Band Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion May 18, 2012

On the way to Friday's Dave Matthews Band show, the question was raised as to the difference between what Radiohead is doing now -- the improvised jams that were birthed this past year -- and what the DMB does on a nightly basis. The only difference that can be gleaned is that the DMB smiles a shit-ton more and for Radiohead it's still undefined country.

But to tell you the truth, both their audiences look the same about now.

Obviously the DMB couldn't do what Thom Yorke and their now-growing crew do, but they have perfected what they do best, now over the past 20-odd years. It's challenging to analytical listeners, a soothing painkiller for hardcore fans and background noise for half the crowd. That last part is the most tragic, I guess.

The band is a champion thoroughbred, muscled-up and disciplined, yet somehow the execution has grown so fluid it's even difficult for a casual fan to notice.

DMB had been rehearsing most of last week in the Pavilion, giving Woodlands locals a daily treat. Friday night's show was the kickoff gig for this round of touring that will keep the band on the road, their natural habitat, until September.

Noticeably absent from the set Friday night was the group's typical selection of covers. The usual cavalcade of Neil Young, Paul Simon and Talking Heads jam rave-ups were gone from the set list, replaced with three new songs. It doesn't count as a cover if they play one of his solo album tracks.

The first, "Gaucho," was made available to DMB fan-club members late last week as a free download, and came with Tim Reynolds's guitar snarl live, a children's chorus on the studio edition. As is customary with most DMB work, the live version slays the studio stab. "Mercy" and "Sweet" also made their full-band debuts, after floating around as solo Matthews cuts for a while now.

Noticeably present in the DMB set on Friday was Matthews the howler, showing off a set of whups and screams that probably hadn't been the norm for over a decade or so. "Don't Drink the Water" actually sounded angry, as it did back in 1998. I was expecting them to leak Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" into it as they have before, but not this time.

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Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty