But the excitement stops right about there. Maybe it’s me. Maybe Dave’s chipmunk scat singing really is the hangnail that won’t go away. Or maybe the Dave Matthews Band makes a new kind of easy-listening music that for some people is pleasant and happy and for others is pleasant but essentially pointless. That sounds more like it.
Friday night at Louisville Slugger Field, the Dave Matthews Band delivered everything its fans expected. It was the band’s first performance in Louisville since the 1995 Farm Aid concert, which, in a nice coincidence, was at Cardinal Stadium, the original home of the Louisville Bats/Redbirds.
The band played a generous set that included fan favorites “Everyday,” “Grey Street,” “Two Step,” “#41” and “Corn Bread,” which might have been the highlight of the evening — or at least the highlight of the originals performed. Matthews made what some might consider a misstep in covering Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House,” which was blistering and a real case study in groove, energy and atmosphere.
In other words, it was what a lot of the DMB songs were trying to be, but they just couldn’t quite get there. “One Sweet World,” “Seek Up” and “Everyday” began the show with a procession of long jams that never found the same propulsive thrust as “Burning Down the House.” They were talking loud and saying nothing.
Willie Nelson opened the show with a set of classic songs that read like the back cover of a greatest hits album: “Me and Paul,” “Good Hearted Woman,” “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” “Angel Flying too Close to the Ground.”
Nelson took the more laid-back approach that he’s favored in recent years, turning even hell-raisers like “Whiskey River” into heck-raisers. It’s nice enough, and the quality of the songs is undeniable, but it would be cool to see Nelson get angry and really try to tear a show’s head off.