DMB Hosts SPAC Family Reunion of Sorts September 17th

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Dave Matthews Band reunited friends, fans, and family at Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Friday, September 17th. After a long wait between seasons due to COVID-19, fans had to wait just a bit longer than usual for Matthews to take the stage, but they didn’t seem to mind. Fans were spilling across the aisles before the band even took the stage, hugging, offering cheers and fist bumps to acknowledge the sense of family that unites this special group of fans. SPAC was sold out, and there wasn’t an inch of extra space between the throng of 25,000 fans.

DMB fans are good friends, even if they don’t know one another. While waiting for the band to start its set, strangers offered me free beer, shook my hand as if to acknowledge an old friend, and chatted me up about how I spent the pandemic. Yeah, they are that friendly. (And don’t worry. I wore my mask.)

Photo by Jim Gilbert

So when Matthews came out on stage initially alone, conducting his fans with a wave of arms, he received a roar of wild applause acknowledging his appearance. The crowd literally went nuts before the band even hit its first downbeat, confident they were going to have a good time.

And they were right.

DMB opened with a cover of Tex Ritter’s “Rye Whiskey” that showcased his range of vocal abilities – and facial expressions. His guitar strumming was a quieter opener, and after the pandemonium caused by his very entrance, it took a moment for the crowd to settle down to hear it. With the start of “One Sweet World” the band built up, adding cohesion with strings, drums, and lastly brightness with the horns, and DMB crescendoed right into their full set.

Photo by Jim Gilbert

Dave Matthews is just a cool guy, and that’s some of his appeal. He seems so ordinary in many ways, like a friend you could be hanging out with on a Friday night. He makes silly sounds, funny faces, and dresses just like us. Only this friend brought his musician friends with him, and they play with mad talent that blows your mind.

Between songs, the band seemed to take longer than usual breaks. One might assume this is due to the fact that the band never plays the same exact setlist, and they need to reset and communicate the plan as they go.

With “That Girl Is You,” Matthews reminded the crowd he’s a romantic at heart. Who can resist that song? I often reflect that Matthews has skills with flirting, at least through his lyrics. Then with “Pig,” he had the crowd shouting along, fist pumping the air. The band created a full wall of sound that vibrated through your torso if you were inside but somehow didn’t overwhelm the eardrums. The sound was balanced, and outside sounded even better during our walkabout.

Photo by Jim Gilbert

“Thank You,” after only the 6th song on the night, afforded Matthews the opportunity to hear his lyrics sang back to him repeatedly. The crowd was united in gratitude, and the reunion felt complete already. “I want to thank you for letting me be myself again” was repeated over and over again, even after the band stopped. And that’s when it hit me: DMB SPAC family had come home.

The setlist took fans on a wild ride after that, spinning through my personal favorite “Can’t Stop,” “You Never Know,” and “Jimi Thing” before sliding through a montage of covers of Huey Lewis’s “I Want a New Drug,” Prince’s “Sexy M.F.” and the Stones’ “Satisfaction.” The music kept building, returning to favorite DMB hits and ending with “Stay.”

Encore songs were “Sister” and “Don’t Drink the Water.”

Photo by Jim Gilbert

The moon was almost full, and the wisp of cloud coverage was a reminder that it was almost fall. But on this night, it was summer again for a few hours as DMB SPAC fans reunited to dance, sing, and share some love.

DMB returns for a second night at SPAC tonight. Those lucky enough to have tickets will be treated to an entirely different set but can look forward to the same family vibe. Go for the music, but stay because you’ll feel like you belong. Because you do.

Photo Gallery by Jim Gilbert

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