Taking last year off from touring, after more than 20 years of life on the road, doesn't seem to have hurt the Dave Matthews Band.
It was the same ol' Dave -- smiling, crooning and trying to keep up with a stage full of top-notch musicians -- on Sunday at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View. For the most part, the band sounded no better, no worse than when he came to the same venue in 2010.
It is, however, quite a different ensemble than the "classic" DMB of the '90s. It's better.
Sure, we all miss excellent saxophonist LeRoi Moore, a founding member who died in 2008. His work helped propel so many of the group's best recordings and concerts.
Yet, the original DMB could sound paper-thin at times. There was a novelty to hearing sax and violin solos in place of electric guitar leads, but it could wear off by the second hour of the band's marathon sets.
Matthews must have realized that, because he began adding side musicians in the mix years ago. The current touring ensemble features four original members -- Matthews on acoustic guitar and vocals, Stefan Lessard on bass, Boyd Tinsely on violin and mandolin and the incredible Carter Beauford on drums -- as well as saxophonist Jeff Coffin, trumpeter Rashawn Ross and electric guitarist Tim Reynolds, Matthews' longtime collaborator.
This ensemble gives Matthews plenty of versatility and firepower, resulting in fuller, richer versions of the old fan favorites. The band
A little over half of the way through the nearly three-hour set, the 45-year-old bandleader called none other than Stanley Jordan to the stage. The supremely gifted jazz-fusion guitarist would sit in for two songs, "Satellite" and "Lie in Our Graves."
On "Graves," Jordan delivered a blistering, emotional solo -- one that probably only a dozen or so people on the planet could replicate -- that left mouths agape. It was, without question, the highlight of the show. (Note to Matthews: In the future, you might want to save Jordan's performance until the encore, since it makes everything else sound downright ordinary.)
The show was otherwise filled with solid renditions of many DMB standards, from the rambunctious opening number, "Eh Hee," to the main-set closer, the longtime anthem "Ants Marching." Along the way, the crowd was treated to such DMB classics as "Don't Drink the Water," "Grey Street" and "Seek Up," as well as an encore that consisted of "Some Devil," "Halloween" and "Tripping Billies."
Matthews also showcased a number of new tunes from the band's eighth studio album, "Away from the World," which is due in stores Tuesday.
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