After a triumphant show by Dave Matthews and partners in Lucca last summer, expectations for their return to Italy (this time for three shows, Milan, Rome and Padua) are very high. It's not going to be easy to do even better than Lucca, but a concert by the band from Charlottesville is an event that should not be missed, even by 'last minute' listeners. Opener for this European tour are the Alberta Cross, who in their short set present their debut album Broken Side Of Time: they have a nice sound and a compelling rock, though perhaps still immature. It's inevitable to sing along the chorus in Rise From The Shadows: at times reminiscent of My Morning Jacket, we believe that in a few years we will hear more about them. But soon the seven players of the evening go on stage: they open the dance with an enchanting Proudest Monkey, that wraps around all the people who are still in silence, bewitched. Satellite suddenly melts the hearts, while You Might Die Trying is a bomb that fills the Palasharp with volume and energy: main players here the trumpet of the colossal Rashawn Ross and the refined saxophone of Jeff Coffin, the last member to join the band after the untimely passing of LeRoi Moore. The only element out of shape seems to be violinist Boyd Tinsley (sometimes steps out of time), but the rest of the troop gives a performance after another with the great skill that distinguishes them. Most of the songs in the setlist are from the new album Big Whiskey And The GrooGrux King (dedicated to LeRoi), which the band performs with energy and enthusiasm. There are also some gems from their past discography: Crash Into Me, So Damn Lucky, Dancing Nancies, Jimi Thing, with a long, luscious jam session in the queue, with a short tribute to Prince's Sexy MF. The surprise is the unexpected Talking Heads' cover, an explosive Burning Down The House. For the encore Dave is alone on stage for a heartfelt Baby Blue, followed by the moving Everyday and Ants Marching.
In Padua band and audience seem more excited than ever: the indoor stadium is not quite full, but even before the start the atmosphere is that of a big party, that you see only on special occasions. It is a gathering of thousands of friends who get together and renew their enthusiasm, and don't spare themselves to show it to the band. As in Milan, the stars are the songs from their latest album, and Dave seems to enjoy himself a lot, telling jokes and playing around with the fans. Many songs are the same as in Milan, but there are some surprises: Seek Up hadn't been played live for some time and leaves everyone amazed, like All Along The Watchtower and an exuberant version of Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer, during which Matthews is wearing a colorful mask thrown on stage by the fans in the first rows. An explosive intro (Time Bomb, with a tribute to Led Zeppelin's Heartbreaker) sends Ants Marching to the stars. Shake Me Like A Monkey marks the goodbyes, even if it felt like the show had just begun. Luckily for the audience in Padua there is a second, special encore: an intense Two Step, a fifteen minutes long thrill that inflames the atmosphere, accomplices the solos by Tim Reynolds on electric guitar and the always wonderful drummer Carter Beauford. At midnight, after nearly three hours of music, one can say that perhaps this song alone may be worth the ticket price. Again: all technically perfect, harmonious, captivating musicians (although we have to reluctanctly admit that once again Boyd was somehow out of place). So much emotion and energy from a band that never disappoints.
JAM (april 2010)