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Concert Review

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Dave Matthews Jam's Away- 7/13/99 Sacramento {short description of image}

{short description of image}he Dave Matthews Band's rise to stardom remains one of the most perplexing questions in pop. Despite massive album sales, huge concert grosses and singer-guitarist Matthews' inexplicable sex symbol status, the most remarkable thing about the quintet is how unremarkable it is. Throughout the evening, Matthews' vocals moved with fluidity up and down the scale. His verses often came wrapped in dark edges or delivered with a sense of mania The musicians have established themselves as a "jam band" in the tradition of the Grateful Dead, but they lack the spontaneous energy of others in the genre, including Blues Traveler. Unlike jamsters Phish, they also don't offer any stage shtick, annoying or otherwise. The 14-song set was part of the group's second leg of a grueling touring schedule, one that started early this summer with 53 shows. Such endurance is difficult to maintain And Matthews' songs are engaging, but hardly as catchy as kindred spirits like Hootie & the Blowfish. {short description of image}

.........Still, the group's fervent, faithful following filled the ARCO Arena in Sacramento on Tuesday night. The point of jamming is to generate dramatic tension between song structure and improvised playing. Most of the band's protracted jams lacked dynamics altogether. They were simply barrages of repetitious rhythms (few true grooves) with sporadic solos thrown in--primarily from violinist Boyd Tinsley and saxophonist-flautist LeRoi Moore with occasional guitar interjections from Matthews,but most fans of Dave Matthews Band would just freak over anything, like even climb a pole. The point is he's so popular now if he sang out of key and even if all his strings were out of key, people would just clap and cheer any way. Astonishingly, after three rambling hours of Matthews and company the crowd was still roaring its approval, apparently pleased to have gotten its money's worth. [See set list Below]

.....Jimmy Cliff's opening set, however, was the real bargain. Though the reggae hero has never been as popular in the U.S. as Bob Marley, he led his lively seven-piece group through a breezy 45-minute set as if he were headlining, interspersing his own hits (including "You Can Get It If You Really Want" and "The Harder They Come") with lovely, soulful renditions of Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now" and the Melodians' "Rivers of Babylon."

................................................By Randy Cohen


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