In 2007, Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds journeyed to Radio City Music Hall in New York City to perform an acoustic concert. The result was a performance so incredible that it was deemed worthy to be put on CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray. Being an avid Dave Matthews fan and having watched this concert multiple times, I am excited to give it a critical overview.
The intimate night begins with the humble duo of Dave and Tim taking their spots on an expansive stage. Tim opts to stand for a strong majority of the show, whereas Dave prefers to stay seated. A rug here and a table there, the stage is ornamented casually. Contrary to a Dave Matthews Band concert, which includes an abundance of lights, projections, and, as of 2014, laser lights, the Radio City stage evokes intimacy.
The vibrant lighting and regal curtains splayed about the concert hall are remarkably beautiful, and the audio sounds incredibly crisp for the entire duration of the show. To get a feeling for the spectacular acoustics harbored in Radio City Music Hall, Dave begins the show with vocalization, projected over relaxed chords and slide effects provided by none other than Tim Reynolds. When the first verse of “Bartender” begins, it is clear that the artists are completely honed in on the music.
Dave sings and plays passionately, almost angrily at some moments. Tim Reynolds’ accents enhance Dave’s performance tremendously, adding dynamism to the words being sung. Similar flare can be observed in the following song, “When the World Ends.” Tim’s style is almost bluesy, bringing to mind Where the Light Is, a John Mayer concert DVD similar in atmosphere to that of this Radio City show.
“Stay or Leave” and “Save Me” are great, livelier renditions of their studio counterparts from Dave’s solo album, Some Devil. It is “Crush,” however, that finally gets the audience up on their feet.
Introduced as a song that is “not about totem poles or sporting events (Dave may have put something other than tea into his system before the show began),” passion can be observed on his face, as he appears visibly moved by the words flowing from his mouth. Additionally, Tim shreds not one but two guitar solos.
The audience thanks the duo with a standing ovation. Matthews must have known how solid the performance was, as he soon babbles about good chicken and nonsense. Dave’s nonsensical insight between songs, known by fans as “Davespeak” is a staple of this concert. Thankfully, the random statements are just as entertaining as the music being played, making song intermissions captivating and often times hilarious.
The following rendition of “So Damn Lucky” has been approved by my father. After watching it, he looked at me and said, “That was the best version of the song.” While that statement may be scoffed at by some elite Dave Matthews fans, (refer to the “So Damn Lucky” Citi Field performance), this version is certainly praise-worthy.
Before diving into “Gravedigger,” Dave tells the story of a soldier who was injured in battle, detailing the government’s failure to compensate him due to a pre-existing condition. Those who are critical of Dave’s political views have nothing to fear, however, as he does not plug a particular candidate or policy. Rather, the disheartening story simply serves as a backdrop for “Gravedigger,” a raw, somber song that is followed by one of similar tone.
Dave and Tim cover “The Maker” by Daniel Lanois with an equally dreary demeanor. Their interpretation of the song was well done, free of embellishment from any detectable pitch correction.
An attempt to lighten the mood comes with an oddball performance of “Old Dirt Hill.” This track, one of the most detested from the infamous Stand Up album, proves to be a treat performed acoustic. A lick of chord progression that eventually evolves into the not-yet-released “Why I Am” can be heard at the end of the song, an interesting catch. While Tim certainly ornaments the song enough to make it interesting, it was the weakest performance of the night, simply because the tune is no giant.
If Dave lost the audience by the end of the song, he undoubtedly gained their attention back with “Eh Hee,” a song that he (verbosely) explains was inspired by a trip to South Africa. The song, a dark, intense chant, sends Dave and Tim into focus mode. They nail the song despite Dave’s fumbling of the lyrics at one point, a minor blunder that I only noticed after a third or fourth viewing.
When the song ends, the talented duo is met with cheering and applause. At that point, Matthews slips off of the stage, allowing for Tim Reynolds to perform one of his own pieces. “Betrayal” is a wicked display of acoustic virtuosity. I cannot explain what this man does. Watch it for yourself.
Reynolds yields a standing ovation, and so he bows to the crowd. He’s a humble dude. Matthews returns and mounts the piano to perform “Out of My Hands,” marking the first time he has played the piano live. The rendition is one that is low-key, a relaxing piece suitable for the concert hall.
Then, a fire is ignited. The duo plays Daniel Lanois’ “Still Water” into the Dave Matthews Band live staple “Don’t Drink the Water.” The execution is incredibly strong. Made even more dramatic by the addition of “This Land is Your Land,” this performance is incredible, one of the best the night has to offer.
To cool things off, the pair plays “Oh,” a relaxing tune that deserved more polish. Dave and Tim weren’t quite on the same page. Tim should have backed off and allowed Matthews to perform the song alone rather than attempting to embellish it with odd effects. The ambient vibe he was striving for wasn’t quite nailed.
Upon the arrival of the next song, Dave’s demeanor switches from lovable simpleton to full-on redneck. “Cornbread” is a dirty song that, at time of its performance, had yet to be put on a record. Equipped with a National ResoLectric guitar, Dave has a ball with the song, whooping and shouting throughout. I personally prefer this rendition of “Cornbread” to the current, as it has a dark tone as opposed to a goofy tone.
Carrying on with the theme of sex, Dave whips out fan-favorite “Crash into Me.” Needless to say, he and Reynolds kill it. The acoustics are spot on and Dave’s vocals are strong.
A cover of “Down by the River” by Neil Young follows. It is a dark take on an incredibly popular song, an interpretation that does justice to the original. After this emotional performance is over, Dave retreats once again, leaving Reynolds to perform another song of his, “You Are My Sanity.” A friend of mine remarked that “it sounds like Tim is playing five different instruments.” His description hits the nail right on the head.
When Matthews returns, he performs a song about one of his sisters, aptly titled “Sister.” It’s sad, bound to yield an “aww” from those watching. Following some more Davespeak, the concert hall is torn up by “Lie in Our Graves,” one of the best songs from Dave’s repertoire. The entire performance is lively, but it is Tim Reynolds’ astounding one-note guitar solo that is most remarkable. The crowd is sent into a frenzy. Watching at home, all you can do is watch in awe at the perfection occurring onscreen. “Lie in Our Graves” is undoubtedly a highlight of the concert.
With that, the duo leaves the stage…only return for a highly-desired encore. Dave steps up with his electric guitar to perform “Some Devil,” prefaced with a solo accompanied by the phrase, “I just think that’s pretty.” What follows is “Grace is Gone,” a lovely song that I would love to hear more of in the Dave Matthews Band live show.
Then comes what I consider to be the best performance of the show. “Dancing Nancies” is slaughtered by Dave and Tim in every way. Beginning with the tense, ambient introduction characteristic of “Dancing Nancies,” the crowd knows that something big is coming. Soon, they are standing, and the song explodes. Tim accents the Spanish-sounding riff with flares that add another dimension to the already excellent song. The song is moving so quickly that Dave and Tim seem to be slaves to the pace, making the performance seem all the more intense. The performance is topped off with an insane solo from Tim Reynolds, arguably the best of the night. The typically stoic man ends the song with a stomp, as if he was aware of how amazing he had just played.
Then, the performers depart….only to return for a second encore. Done for the cameras? Yes. Am I complaining? Absolutely not. Fan favorites “#41” and “Two Step” wrap up the night, both performed with stellar precision and both inclusive of righteous Tim solos.
When the men humbly walk off of the stage, I can’t help but to let out a big sigh. This concert is a wild ride, full of healthy variety, remarkable talent, and great music. From die-hard Dave fans to those unfamiliar with his music, the reaction of all whom I’ve sat down with to watch the show have shared the same reaction: Wow! This concert will not disappoint.