In an industry where aging rockers routinely spend their lives trying to innovate in an attempt to stay relevant, the Dave Matthews Band has had its own strategy.
Find a sound, build a fan base and then give the people what they want for two decades. So when Matthews took the BOK Center stage Wednesday night, the crowd knew what it was in for, and the band played to its strengths.
Consider DMB the Kentucky Fried Chicken Famous Bowl of rock — a bunch of seemingly random instruments and styles all thrown together.
And like that caloric masterpiece, DMB makes it work, most of the time.
Playing an acoustic set as its own opening act, Matthews and drummer Carter Beauford took the stage alone for “Sweet.” Matthews fist-bumped Beauford, then announced that “it smells like weed in here.” (For the record, it did.)
Band members joined Matthews and Beauford song by song and piece by piece, and by the group’s fourth song of the night, “Satellites,” the entire band was on stage.
But speaking of “Satellites,” the song never came together exactly right. Maybe it was the fact that there were seven musicians on stage together, cramped, in an attempt to be closer to the crowd. Maybe I was just at a bad acoustic angle. Either way, the song sounded off.
It wasn’t until the final song of the acoustic set, “What Would You Say,” that the band had the crowd’s full attention.
Before that, there just wasn’t enough action on stage to really take control. It could have been by design: The songs, for the most part, played to Matthews’ ethereal strengths.
And while “Steal You Away on 55th and 3rd” was a crowd favorite, it’s basically elevator music on weed. Everyone was having a good time, but the energy levels weren’t high.
Closing the acoustic set with “What Would You Say” helped, and when the electric set kicked off with “Squirm,” followed by “Crush,” things picked up. “Crush” gave Matthews and violinist Boyd Tinsley their first chance to truly jam — this is a jam band, after all — and from that point on, Matthews had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand.
It helped that the stage was opened up for the electric set, giving the group the freedom to move around. I’ve always thought it was a bad sign when the crowd moves more than the band does.
The highlight of the set may have been a salsa-inspired freestyle in the middle of “Warehouse,” a song that must have taken more than 10 minutes to finish.
Want to know how you’ve got your crowd hooked? Look out to see if any 60-year-olds are salsa dancing next to kids young enough not to remember your first radio hit.
Even a bizarrely timed flute and drum solo after “Don’t Drink the Water,” probably the band’s best performance of the night, couldn’t slow down the group’s momentum.
So, in the end, everyone won.
The show itself was a perfect DMB microcosm, a little bit of everything. After more than two decades, they’ve perfected their formula.
Dylan Goforth 918-581-8451