Dave Matthews Band thrills longtime fans and newbies alike with Tampa show

The lengthy setlist mixed old favorites with recent tunes and even a couple of covers.

click to enlarge Dave Matthews Band thrills longtime fans and newbies alike with Tampa show
Phil DeSimone

I am 31 years old, and for 15 of those years, I have been a fan of Dave Matthews Band, specifically its first four albums. I began listening to DMB during my junior year of high school when I borrowed my mom’s Under the Table and Dreaming album. From there, Crash and Before These Crowded Streets were pretty much the soundtrack for my remaining high school years. I went to my first show the summer before my senior year in 2005 at MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater. Since then, I’ve seen him more than a dozen times, including a special trip to West Palm Beach and five years ago at the Gorge. That was the last time I had seen him, until last night.

When the opportunity to review the band’s Tampa show Wednesday night came up, I couldn’t pass it up. 

Check out photos of Dave Matthews Band's Tampa gig.

It wouldn’t be a typical “Tampa Dave Matthews summer show” without thunderstorms, but that didn’t stop the 10,000-plus fans anxiously waiting for the band to start to show up. Without an opening act, the set started around 8:15 p.m with “Idea of You.”

The band played for almost three hours, with the only breaks being the couple of minutes it would sometimes take between songs, seemingly deciding what to play next, and some sweet “thank you very much” notes to the crowd. After the first song, Dave Matthews brought it back to some of his classics with “Too Much”, “Granny” and “Grey Street,” with the same fancy musical footwork while cementing the group's status as a “jam band."

A couple of songs later we were blessed with a killer drum solo from Carter Beauford during “Don’t Drink The Water" that had the whole Amphitheater on their feet. 

Dave then slowed things down a little bit with a newbie, “Samurai Cop,” and then an oldie but a goodie — “Where Are You Going,” which was a good halfway point in the show. During the second half of the show, the energy picked back up with bass player Stefan Lessard rocking a solo in “Dancing Nancies” — a fan favorite. Matthews also had a great solo while finishing up “Lying in the Hands of God” that went on for what seemed like 20 minutes of pure perfection.

Toward the end of the show, DMB launched into “Shake Me Like A Monkey,” getting the crowd on its feet again. A sweet added surprise immediately followed with a medley of “Back in Black" and "Stayin’ Alive” and the Steve Miller Band classic “Fly Like An Eagle." DMB has a lot of material, so covers are rarely — if ever — included, but it was nice to get the bonus of a small tribute to another jammy outfit I’ve also seen live.

As the concert approached its end, Matthews graced us with "Grace Is Gone" (pun intended), which is another fan-favorite classic, and one that I had never seen live until this night. I think I honestly would have been fine with ending the show with that, but of course Matthews did not disappoint, and ended the set with another fan favorite, "Ants Marching," which never, ever gets old.

As Matthews exited the stage, the fans immediately started chanting “DAVE DAVE DAVE" for five minutes, anxiously waiting what he would bring back for an encore. And wow, did he deliver:  "Two-Step" and "Corn Bread" finished off the night.

Dave Matthews Band put on a fantastic live show even when the band played songs I wasn’t familiar with. But this particular setlist included many of the group's classics, which were appreciated by longtime followers like me, and some of his recent material for all the DMB newcomers. This is a band that has played together for 30 years; the members are comfortable onstage and extremely talented musicians. It is fun to see all the elements — brass, wind, strings and percussion — combine to make beautiful music that sticks with you for days.

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