A brief exchange with Dave Matthews, backstage at the PalaSharp in Milan last night, right before a fiery concert that lasted two hours and forty minutes, and even offered a wonderful cover of "Burning Down the House" by Talking Heads (and an entertaining quote from "Sexy MF" by Prince). The show in Lucca on July 5 seems to have marked a turning point in the loving relationship between the American band and the Italian audience: an truly special evening, so much so that the band decided to turn it into a deluxe box set that just hit the market. "It was one of those shows that happen a few times in somebody's life," confirms Matthews while sitting on a red couch with an impressive array of drops and cough lozenges on the table. "When we go on stage we don't know exactly what is going to happen, there's nothing choreographed or predetermined. Even when the songs in the setlist are the same, we play them in a different way every night. That was a beautiful night, in a beautiful place and with an amazing and loving audience, a memorable concert. We wanted to publish it to fix the memory of a spectacular moment in our career. It was also one of our longest concerts, but we were having so much fun that it didn't feel that way. We took our time with the encores, no one seemed to want to go to sleep...I remember another very long show in Portugal, but maybe not as long as Lucca".
The box set devoted to the Italian concert is one of the many live recordings published by the DMB. "Yes, even if the manager mumbles and always tries to convince me not to spend the money on such projects. We try to sell them at the lowest possible price. We just released 'Live in Las Vegas' a testimony of my not very frequent tours with Tim Reynolds. "The cover of 'Kashmir' by Led Zeppelin? It was Tim's idea, he's better than I am when it comes to that kind of things." How about your relationship with the guitar? "I initially chose it because it's the instrument of the Twentieth century, easy to play and to carry around, especially the one I'm very fond of, the acoustic guitar, which I play almost in a percussive way. My first musical heroes, The Beatles, Bob Dylan or Jimi Hendrix, all played guitar. The electric guitar? I play it when someone puts it in my hands ... In this latest album I played solos for the first time ever, not because I don't like them but because I had never imagined myself in such a role as a guitarist before. The guitar for me has always been a support tool, or a vehicle for composing songs. I also like the piano, even if I don't play it very well. Same as the guitar, I must say...In the end I'm always looking for an excuse not to get a real job" Dave jokes. The new album, Big Whiskey and The GrooGrux King, seems to pacify even those - and there are many - who turned up their noses at Glen Ballard's and Mark Batson's mainstream productions. "I agree, but there is an explanation," nods Matthews. "At the time of the record produced by Ballard we had chosen a different approach, and Glen and I wrote the songs together. I understand that not everyone liked it because it represented a big change from our usual way. What makes our music special is that element of independence that allows each of us to have a say, starting with Carter (Beauford, the mighty drummer who is to the DMB what Clarence Clemons is to the E Street Band) in the rhythmic section. We can each speak our mind about our own instrumental contributions and the way the record should sound. With 'Big Whiskey' this has happened from the beginning. In a sense we are back to the method we had at the beginning with Steve Lillywhite. But there are also differences, because in the meantime we have changed and we have evolved. The 'middle' records, which some have criticized, were different but they were also needed: it was a time when the band was not very united and we had to do something to make it work. I don't know if it was the right decision or not, but it brought us this far. So there may be better songs in other albums, but I think this record is overall the most solid we've ever done."
Rockol (february 2010)