Dave Matthews Band

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author PP date 17/03/19 venue Royal Arena, Copenhagen, DEN

It's Sunday night and we find ourselves at Royal Arena, in fascination over the ease of which the multipurpose arena can convert from a 16.000 capacity sold-out venue to accommodate ticket sales of only a third of that at most. Neither sound quality is sacrificed, nor does the venue feel empty, despite Dave Matthews Band only being able to draw around 5.000 people based on a rough estimation. Probably the ludicrous 700,- DKK ticket price scared some people away, or the nostalgic memory of one of the biggest 90s rocks bands is starting to fade away in 2019. Either way, the stage has been brought forward to almost two-thirds of the arena with top levels completely closed, so it's the smallest we've seen Royal Arena to date, but it ensures that at no point does the show feel like it is lacking people. Once again kudos to the quality of Royal Arena overall.

Dave Matthews Band

There's no support band tonight to make room for an extensive Dave Matthews Band set instead. He's ten minutes late to his announced 19:30 start, but as soon as the crowd catches a glimpse of the band members entering on stage the cheering starts...and ends in an almost abrupt silence - a pattern we see repeating at least a couple of times throughout the night: applauds from the crowd, followed by a disjointed silence before the band proceeds with either banter or the next song. Already now it's clear Dave & co are not on their A-game tonight, which is probably attributable to a state of hangover which he alludes to by commenting on how excellent the Nordic cuisine and alcoholic beverages are.

If there's one thing Dave Matthews Band concerts are known for, then it is the extensive liberty given to each band member to re-interpret the songs differently each night they are being played. While the key sections are held together relatively faithfully, many instrumental and especially solo segments are fully transformed into improvisational jazz/stream-of-consciousness type of experimentation, so no Dave Matthews Band concert is really the same. That's also why a 21 song set of songs that on record last around 5 minutes each is stretched to well beyond the 2.5-hour mark, as the band engages in lengthy jam passages where each band member gets their moment to shine where the remaining band rescinds into a rhythm section role for the duration. There are smooth saxophone and trumpet solos, groovy bass lines, keyboard showcases, and of course plenty of guitar fretwork evenly separated amongst the band members throughout the night.

For the first couple of songs, the stage production behind the band is thoroughly underwhelming: there's nothing there but the band playing. It doesn't improve much when the video screen behind the band is turned on to show animations or juxtaposing the band live on the video screen. Not exactly worthy a 700,- DKK ticket price, especially considering the breathtaking production at this very venue by Iron Maiden last year, or even comparing to the band's own show back in 2015 that attracted a much bigger audience.

But then again, we're here for the music, right? "Satellite" gets a good reception from the crowd, "Louisiana Bayou" is groovy and folksy, and "Gravedigger" receives loud applause when it starts. "Grey Street" is an excellent song, and brings about a question mark as to why DMB hasn't been booked to play Roskilde since 1996? After all, their experimental nature and rich musical texture should be right up the alley for the modern Roskilde Festival profile. Much later, "You & Me" is every bit as good as you remember it from the radio, and "Ants Marching" gets a roaring reception from the crowd thanks to its funky sax and potential for sing along during its chorus.

There's only one problem. Around two hours in, it's still fairly nondescript. Not much is happening, and the songs fail to reach the sort of arena status they feel like they deserve. Not sure if that's because of the smaller crowd or the band performing as if it's just another day in the office. With the underwhelming production, lackluster performance and a few of the classics missing from the setlist, the 2.5-hour ordeal never feels like anything but mediocre. Few memorable moments and nothing truly breathtaking to write home about, a concert, DMB or otherwise, honestly must be better to justify a 700,- DKK ticket price.

6

Setlist:

  • 1. That Girl Is You
  • 2. Stand Up (For It)
  • 3. Dancing Nancies
  • 4. Warehouse
  • 5. Again And Again
  • 6. Satellite
  • 7. Time Of The Season (The Zombies cover)
  • 8. Louisiana Bayou
  • 9. Here On Out
  • 10. Don't Drink The Water
  • 11. Grey Street
  • 12. Can't Stop
  • 13. Gravedigger
  • 14. Jimi Thing
  • 15. Fly Like An Eagle (Steve Miller Band cover)
  • 16. She
  • 17. You & Me
  • 18. Funny The Way It Is
  • 19. Ants Marching

— Encore —

  • 20. Save Me
  • 21. All Along The Watchtower (Bob Dylan cover)

Photos by: Stefan Thor Straten

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