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Dave Matthews Band, live in London

Solos galore, but a poor song selection drags down Matthews

While Dave Matthews Band cast a wide net that pulls in rock, funk and even a little jazz, their blues credentials are somewhat tenuous. Headlining Saturday night of BluesFest in the cavernous O2 Arena, a hungry room that’s all too quick to swallow atmosphere and energy, Matthews and co deliver a set of epic length, but one that’s weighed down by an excess of melancholy songs.

The cluttered mix takes a while to settle with the low end – particularly Carter Beauford’s kick drum and Stefan Lessard’s bass – which means the band lack presence. They start off with Squirm When The World Ends, Belly Belly Nice and Warehouse, but then Matthews takes the mood right down with the morose Death On The High Seas.

The epic set is weighed down by an excess of melancholy songs

It’s a pattern that repeats throughout the performance. Violinist Boyd Tinsley gets the crowd going with his energetic solo in Lie In Our Graves, but that’s countered by a long, rambling jam, and then a sparse, sombre arrangement of Proudest Monkey that slows the momentum back to a crawl. Satellite never gets past second gear and while the funky break in #41 lifts the spirits of the crowd, that’s followed by a plodding take on If Only.

It doesn’t help that Matthews seems a little out of it tonight, repeating the exact same joke at least five times between songs. The animations that occasionally play behind the band add some much-needed movement and colour as most of the players never budge from their assigned spots on stage, Tinsley being the sole exception.

The most notable omission from the set is fan favourite Ants Marching; instead they wrap with Two Step and a drum solo.

Dave Matthews Band have a well-deserved reputation as a live act, but while their devoted acolytes in the audience give them an enthusiastic reception, tonight doesn’t rank among their best outings.

After starting his writing career covering the unforgiving world of MMA, David moved into music journalism at Rhythm magazine, interviewing legends of the drum kit including Ginger Baker and Neil Peart. A regular contributor to Prog, he’s written for Metal Hammer, The Blues, Country Music Magazine and more. The author of Chasing Dragons: An Introduction To The Martial Arts Film, David shares his thoughts on kung fu movies in essays and videos for 88 Films, Arrow Films, and Eureka Entertainment. He firmly believes Steely Dan’s Reelin’ In The Years is the tuniest tune ever tuned.