That which you treasure in your youth can become an albatross in your later years.
When you simply respond to something and love it — without hesitation or fear of judgment — life-long attachments can be formed.
So it was for me, in the early 2000s, and my extremely well-worn copy of Live at Luther College, a double acoustic album featuring Dave Matthews and guitarist Tim Reynolds.
Matthews had been a musical fascination for me long before I’d arrived at college — the stereotypical breeding ground for a Dave Matthews fan — and my teens had coincided with the still-unsurpassed late ‘90s run the Dave Matthews Band embarked upon, culminating in the 1998 masterpiece Before These Crowded Streets.
The number of times I’ve listened to Luther College is both frightening and embarrassing. Between myself and my college roommate Dan, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’d spun it thousands of times (and somewhere, buried in a closet, lurks a CD binder full of more than a dozen bootlegged Dave and Tim shows from around that period).
Often, age can bring myriad disappointments, and few sting more than falling out of love with an artist you once clung to unreservedly.
So it has been, as I’ve gotten older and been exposed to more and different kinds of music, that my ardent love for all things Dave Matthews has cooled — it hasn’t helped that, the last few times I’ve seen the band in concert, it’s been, on balance, inconsistent.
Thursday, which marked the first time Matthews and Reynolds have ever played an acoustic set in North Texas, it was a relief to find the pair in top form, trading vivid guitar licks and stoking the enthusiasm of a sold-out crowd for more than two hours.
Matthews, who turned 50 earlier this month, is taking the year off from his DMB touring responsibilities, but has nevertheless booked a run of dates alongside Reynolds.
It’s a comfortable, easy chemistry they share, having now performed together for the better part of two decades.
Easing into Granny, the first song of the night, it was clear Matthews and Reynolds are still capable of capturing the magic first heard on Live at Luther College all those years ago.
Reynolds, in particular, is an astonishingly fluid and frenetic player who is equally capable of delicate accompaniment, filling the space between Matthews’ surprisingly limber vocals and the familiar melodies of favorites like Crash Into Me, What Would You Say or Recently.
A handful of unreleased songs — Samurai Cop and the bleakly beautiful Bismarck, which Matthews allowed was written after spending time at the Standing Rock protests — fit in between his solo material and DMB catalog staples.
The evening had a relaxed ebb and flow to it — Matthews ceded the stage to Reynolds for solo instrumental showcases at two different points — and Matthews was, as always, disarmingly odd as he bantered between songs: “I feel tangential most of the time,” he explained.
The unspoken current underneath all of the sublime music and good feeling was an anxiety, which took many forms. Matthews spoke plainly about death, his children growing up and the uncertainty facing the country: “If we want to matter, we’ve got to look after each other,” he summed up, eliciting fervent cheers.
What was true about the murky chaos of the here and now could also be applied to viewing the past from the present (“You’re hopeful — that’s all you can do, but be prepared for incredible disappointment,” as Matthews put it).
Change, particularly of the personal kind, brings with it good and bad. If you’re fortunate enough to continue to give that which you’ve always loved a chance, the occasional disappointments can be tempered, and there is a glimpse again, however briefly, of what was once an uncomplicated, simple connection.
For a time, it becomes as easy as letting the music carry you away.