Photo by Rene Huemer

Dave Matthews Band, Xfinity Theatre, Hartford, CT- 6/11

As the Dave Matthews Band celebrates its 25th anniversary, fans around the country have gathered together for another summer of shows with the realization that the group will be taking off 2017. The tour has become a celebration of the band’s music from every stage of their career. No one knows what tomorrow brings, never mind next year…live for today for tomorrow we’ll die…

As I arrived on Saturday afternoon in Hartford, CT I had a strong feeling things were going to be a bit different then the night before in Mansfield, MA which I also attended. There was a sense of excitement in the air as the dirt lots dried and the sun parted through the clouds. Summer was finally here and so was I, at a venue I had been traveling to every summer for the past decade to see a band I have come to love and respect.

As the band waltzed on stage and the opening rhythm of “Pig” waved out of the speaker stacks, the nearly 30,000 in attendance exploded while the sky turned a beautiful orange. Tim Reynolds shined as the band slowed things down for “Proudest Monkey” which followed, driven by Dave’s unique riffs and Carter Beauford’s dancing drums beats. This segued into “Crash into Me” and an abundance of cheers for the song from Crash, which celebrated its 20th anniversary earlier this year. Following “Seven,” a wondering, and passionate “Seek Up” allowed stellar trumpet player Rashawn Ross and Grammy winning saxophonist Jeff Coffin to shine. Dave’s passion cries complemented Boyd Tinsley’s strings, yielding a roaring climax that sent glow sticks flying thru the air.

The rousing cheers of joy continued with “Grey Street”— it’s a special moment at any show when everyone around you is in the same moment enjoying it with such joy and passion as they did here to the chorus of “…the colors mix together to grey…” Dave then moved to the piano, sitting down for the tour debut of “Out of My Hands.” Next, the band delivered a three combo punch of the Middle Eastern diehard favorite “Minarets,” the new and well-received “Samauri Cop,” followed by “Rapunzel.” The jazzy “If Only” from the band’s most recent release Away From the World (2012) then creeped smoothly into the night as Coffin lifted the crowd to a place of love and desire. Dave took to the piano again for the ever catchy “Bob Law” which according Matthews, is yet to be titled.

Without a doubt the highlight of the night came with “Typical Situation,” in which the pure joy from the band and crowd was palpable. The audience screamed along “Everybody’s happy everybody’s free, it all comes down to nothing.” It was a live show moment that will vividly stick with me for some time to come. They then closed the set with an electric “You Might Die Trying,” which showcased all the members, but particularly allowed Reynolds, Tinsley and Matthews to shine before the breakdown as they matched riffs before letting the song open and explode leaving the crowd yearning for just a little bit more.

The single song encore was the Dylan classic “All Along the Watchtower.” While the song has been a staple of past tours, it has taken a bit of a backseat as of late. Perhaps this is why Tim Reynolds, Boyd Tinsley and the horn section of Jeff Coffin and Rashawn Ross ripped through smoking hot solos while Stefan Lessard and Carter Beauford laid down the groundwork as they had done all night.

Walking from the venue after the show I knew that I had indeed experienced a special night. The band delivered more of their loose jammier songs I was hoping to hear, while a good mix of classics, hard hitters and new tunes made for one of my favorite shows from the last few years. Without a doubt this group of musicians still has it and I can only hope to see them all return in 2018. Until then I was be reliving this evening, not only because of the music, but because of the company it keeps.