|photo: Kevin Sullivan/OC Register|
Dave Matthews Band has a long history with Irvine Meadows, thanks to multiple summertime gigs there over the past decade.
On Saturday night, when Matthews casually referenced the venue's impending closure, he was met with loud boos from passionate fans. Earlier, many people scribbled their personal thoughts about the circumstances on a large board located at the concourse entrance (sponsored by Save Live Music Irvine).
A long-awaited new studio effort from DMB is still rumored to be in the works, so the current tour celebrates its 25th anniversary as one of America’s most successful rock groups and top concert draws. Last month, multi-platinum 1996 release “Crash” was reissued on LP and debuted atop Billboard’s Vinyl Albums chart.
The sold out, nearly three-hour O.C. show started with the laid-back, loping groove of “When the World Ends” and Matthews’ exaggerated vocal delivery drew cheers. “Y’all are beautiful and cultured. I’m not going to tell you how to dance, but…,” the singer subtly suggested, about the churning “Seven.” He proceeded to sing in falsetto, dramatically gesture and do some of those famous loose limbed movements to the unusual time signature. A fast and frenetic “Rooftop,” from 2012’s “Away from the World,” featured a tasty trumpet solo by Rashawn Ross.
Despite the previous night’s performance in Chula Vista, there was a sense that the musicians were still getting their bearings following a month off from touring. The pauses between some initial songs seemed like an eternity. Maybe it had to do with instrument adjustments because the entire set lists tend to change nightly.
Matthews’ quiet vocals and acoustic guitar intro to “Proudest Monkey” came close to being drowned out by chatty concertgoers (it also happened later on an epic “Typical Situation,” where the band pulled out all the stops). Still, the slowly unravelling “Monkey” was gorgeous and an early highlight. “Crash Into Me” was equally strong. A mammoth version of “Crush” saw Boyd Tinsley revel in his violin spotlight, fans wave their hands during the buoyant chorus and heartily approve of the “feeling high” lyric.
Stretching back to 1993 live album “Remember Two Things,” the band’s haunting “Minarets” saw Matthews and drummer Carter Beauford doing strange vocalizations. Later, a spirited “Recently” prompted a loud audience singalong, plus entrancing solos by Ross, Tinsley and sax man Jeff Coffin. Matthews included a line from Al Green’s “Take Me to the River.”
The gilded melodicism of “The Space Between” was another standout, while the always riveting “Don’t Drink the Water” found the group tightly locked into a hard-edged maelstrom sound at the end. Some intricately woven grooves amid “Funny the Way It Is” proved how DMB’s eclecticism still stands apart from the pack.
Nearing the home stretch, the breezy, uplifting folk/funk of “Jimi Thing” closed the main set with more scintillating violin work from Tinsley, plus a snippet of Prince’s “Sexy MF.” The band passed the usual 11 p.m. curfew with its encores, but hey, why not go out at Irvine Meadows with a bang?
When The World Ends / Seven / Rooftop / Proudest Monkey / Crash Into Me / Break Free / Crush / Squirm / Samurai Cop / Minarets / If Only / Recently / The Space Between / Don’t Drink the Water / Typical Situation / Funny The Way It Is / Jimi Thing>Sexy M.F. (Prince snippet)
Encore: Sister / Two Step / Halloween
A version of my review originally appeared at ocregister.com