Dave Matthews Band Make Sense at Forest Hills Stadium

Dave Matthews Band Make Sense at Forest Hills Stadium

June 12, 2023

Dave Matthews Band – Forest Hills Stadium – June 9, 2023

In the heart of many a concertgoer — perhaps who grew up loving a good groove and a kind, familial crowd to sing along with it — is a soft spot for the Dave Matthews Band of the mid-to-late 1990s, when a groovy, roots-rocking, eclectic, sorta-fledgling-hootenanny-on-the-road kind of group became a touring juggernaut and one of the great live bands of the era. Well, it’s 2023, and Dee Em Bee are still a touring juggernaut and are still turning out interesting, groove-alicious music that has some of the planet’s best musicians on their instruments still interested in fleshing it out for massively exciting concert moments. 

DMB have stayed consistent through many years of changing popular tastes and creative output both tentative and prolific, delivering a potent product without finding any real need to mess with the band’s identity or fundamentals. Drummer Carter Beauford and bassist Stefan Lessard drive the whole thing from a pocket that got first tuned when both were basically kids all those decades ago and has gotten only deeper, richer and more supple. The coloring players — Rashawn Ross and Jeff Coffin’s ferociously competent horn section, Buddy Strong’s dancing keyboards, the mad scientist Tim Reynolds’ explosive, tone-bending guitar — create big, aggressive sounds that somehow never overwhelm or make wobbly the sturdy songs they enhance. And there’s Dave Matthews himself, still goofily dancing, still delivering with passion, still looking like he’s having the most fun out of everyone — the guileless frontman.

At Forest Hills Stadium on Friday — a bit of an underplay, comfortably and inevitably sold out — DMB typically slayed, walking their usual balance of classic concert warhorses and patient, satisfying jam segments while continuing to develop tunes from 2023’s Walk Around the Moon, which has some of the best new music they’ve turned out in a decade. That album’s songs appeared throughout the 140-minute set, including the pensive title track, “Madman Eyes,” with its insistent tempo and Middle East sonic inflections, “The Only Thing,” a jittery rocker, “It Could Happen,” a lushly layered psychedelic waltz, and “Monsters,” which has kind of an anxious Radiohead thing going on, layering on the drama. 

Around them came the old favorites, some time-capsule reliable, others having been rearranged or rejuvenated using more recent inventions. In the former category were “One Sweet World,” “Crash into Me,” “When the World Ends,” “Granny” and, to close a generous three-song encore, a thoroughly worked-in “Crush” — each delivered as if it could have been any of the past 20 years. In the latter category were “Jimi Thing,” always one of DMB’s most reliable long-jammers, here given over to a Reynolds-Strong call-and-response jam segment and then a Coffin-Ross horn workout, before yielding to a crowd-giddy jam on the Commodores’ “Brick House.” Right after “Jimi” was “#41,” lush, mysterious, dramatic, dappled with bebop and other late-night-at-the-jazz-barn solos from several players before fading out with a few sonic nods to the Jay-Z/Alicia Keys song “Empire State of Mind.”

Crowd sing-alongs abounded (“Why I Am,” “You & Me” and, whoa, that “Crash”). Guitar shred-fests had their moment (as in the set-closing “You Might Die Trying,” as urgent-sounding as its title implied). And through all the familiarity, the band still had some capacity to surprise: “JTR,” a set-list rarity, arrived for a particularly on-point moment, its “Rain down on me” chorus resounding as, yep, a pelting rainstorm drenched most of the stadium. At other concerts it might have been a messy disruption, but at a DMB show, it was one more ingredient that made sense. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson

Photos courtesy of Joe Papeo | www.irocktheshot.com

Please rotate your device