December 11, 2002
Philips Arena, Atlanta


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I never “got” Dave Matthews. I could never understand how he could attract such rabid fans. In fact, I wasn’t going to the show. Then curiosity got the better of me when a friend had an extra ticket. I figured it was worth checking out to see what all the fuss is about. I quickly realized that the concert would be much better than I had expected. Perhaps this was because there was less emphasis on Dave’s “acquired taste” voice, which is much more listenable live than when produced to sound like Louie the Lightning Bug…or perhaps the intensity of their live show just can’t be captured in a recording. Whatever the case, the audience greatly enhanced the experience. The sold-out crowd radiated a contagious happiness, and it was one big sing-a-long from start to finish (except for me, of course). This enthusiasm was echoed onstage as the band and Dave were as caught up in the moment as the crowd as they launched into a hit-heavy kickoff of “Crush” and “What Would You Say?”. At any rate, I quickly knew I wouldn’t be leaving until the last song was over.Another surprise was the musical diversity. On the radio, all the DMB songs sound alike to me, but in a live format, they were distinctly different. “Grace Is Gone” combined a military drumbeat with country fiddle, while “Too Much” sounded like Rush playing a Police song. The musicianship was worth seeing in itself. It was clear that violinist Boyd Tinsley and drummer Carter Beauford were at least as appreciated as Dave. There were solos a-plenty and a guitar/violin duel, but it never seemed excessive. The show-offs were just that, but each member also maintained a grace and subtlety usually lacking in such displays.

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The undisputed highlight of the show was the overwhelmingly intense reworking of  “All Along the Watchtower,” with the famous guitar solo played on the keyboards. DMB’s version somehow kept the darkness of Dylan’s version, the fire of Hendrix’s and they added their own spin to it as well. Near the climax of the tune, Matthews was screaming as the phenomenal band relentlessly built the tension of the crescendo around him. The show ended with the recent, more poppy hit, “Everyday,” which (thankfully) came across more like a gospel tune than the overdone radio version. Of course, no self-respecting band that’s a favorite among college hippies would forget the obligatory, but obviously heartfelt anti-war speech. “War is crazy,” Dave said. “We must teach people about love.” He then proceeded to sing about Jesus and, in a tongue-in-cheek homage to the Beatles, segued into bits of “All You Need Is Love” and “Can’t Buy Me Love.” That could have been disaster in the hands of less qualified musicians. Like every other turn the band took that night, this one was maneuvered beautifully. I left in an upbeat mood and as a converted Dave fan. I mean, I might not buy the next album when it comes out, but I hope to be there when he comes back to town.

(Amanda Stahl/concertshots.com)

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Dave Matthews Band Set List (12-11-02):

1. Crush
2. Halloween/What Would You Say?
3. Grey Street
4. Grace Is Gone
5. Bartender
6. Don't Burn The Pig
7. Sleep To Dream Her
8. So Much To Say
9. Anyone Seen The Bridge?/Too Much
10. Fool To Think
11. Loving Wings
12. Where Are You Going?
13. Dancing Nancies
14. Warehouse
15. All Along The Watchtower
16. Christmas Song
17. Everyday