There was a moment, early in the Dave Matthews Band’s Friday appearance at Gexa Energy Pavilion, where it seemed that this year might finally be when the ensemble ran out of steam.
That moment came after the first couple lackluster songs (Old Dirt Hill (Bring That Beat Back) and Gravedigger) in the septet’s acoustic set.
As DMB did about this time last year, it’s serving as its own opening act this summer, performing one acoustic and one electric set each night, but the group seemed a little logy and aimless.
With the familiar downbeats of Ants Marching filling the air, something sparked, the near-capacity crowd roared to life and the remainder of the eight-song opening set ripped past, a cascade of classics tumbling into one another: One Sweet World; I’ll Back You Up; Typical Situation; So Much to Say and Too Much.
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The rope-a-dope strategy — that’s a new look for Dave Matthews Band, but one which worked quite well.
The lingering buzz from the acoustic set carried over, after a half-hour intermission, to the two-hour electric set, which kicked off with Minarets, a deep cut from the band’s 1993 debut, Remember Two Things.
The remaining selections proved something of a roller coaster, although the audience cheered every last note, beers hoisted high and straining for selfies with DMB as the backdrop.
You’d start to look around at the multi-generational crowd, feel as if maybe you’re getting a little old for all this, and then a Tim Reynolds solo would unfurl, a little riffle of notes from Matthews’ hard-plucked acoustic guitar would raise the hair on your neck or a familiar chorus would soar, and you’d wonder why doubt ever entered your mind.
As-yet-unreleased tracks like Black and Blue Bird tended to stifle momentum, while favorites such as Lie in Our Graves or the electric set-closing Warehouse, both stretched out to more than 10 minutes apiece, were dizzying, sustained high points.
Matthews and his musical brethren were in fine form throughout — guitarist Reynolds, saxophonist Jeff Coffin and trumpeter Rashawn Ross, in particular, made vivid impressions — and apart from briefly acknowledging B.B. King’s passing, Matthews kept the chatter to a minimum.
Another summer has arrived, and with it, the Dave Matthews Band out on the road.
The beloved rock band rolls ever onward, not yet exhausted — and, if Friday’s three-hour showcase is any indication, may never be.
Preston Jones, 817-390-7713