Was the summer 2000 tour the best of times for Dave Matthews Band shows? At the least, it was the last summer of a golden era. Around the corner, the process and content of Everyday would suggest that something was off kilter within the band. Those suspicions would be surprisingly and clearly confirmed in the later era of Groo Grux glasnost. Before then, Stand Up did nothing to quell those concerns in 2004.
And yet, before those two albums started to change the face of DMB’s live shows in the new decade, there was summer 2000. Most frequent openers? One Sweet World, Seek Up, #41, The Stone, Warehouse, and Best Of What’s Around. Meanwhile, the band was riding on the fanbase’s embrace of great new songs from the Lillywhite sessions, at least a few of which would get aired nightly. Even the newly permanent addition of Butch Taylor on keys was working out pretty well.
From the outside, the tour was (and remains) a powerhouse, bless its alcohol-soaked, old-school little heart.
This evening at SPAC opened with an intense three-pack: The Stone, Rhyme & Reason (never one of my favorites), and Don’t Drink The Water set the mood out of the gate. The strains of #41 and its violin/flute/sax solo eased the tension before semi-segueing into a lovely Grace Is Gone.
After the then-new killer ending of JTR and a good WWYS, the energy moved back toward a slow burn of Daniel Lanois’ The Maker into a Watchtower that benefitted from Butch’s organ solo. I skip that song from time to time, but not this performance.
Crash Into Me provided a pretty breather, then Dave poked an old familiar riff in the shoulder a couple of times — at first tentatively and then with an unhurried authority as the band cranked into the first Minarets since the beloved ’98 winter tour (over 150 shows ago). The performance didn’t suffer from the layoff and got a boost from some supporting synth sounds from Butch and tom work from Carter. Nevertheless, Minarets would only get one more airing that summer.
Lie In Our Graves stepped up to continue a fine setlist three-pack. Personally, any LIOG without a Roi solo is second-rate, but Boyd did do nicely, and again, Butch shined in his good turn, marked by his “If I Only Had A Brain” interpolation and an especially sweet finish (enough so that Dave introduced him, referring to him amusingly as “#6,” before diving back into the reprise). I’d call it an above-average version of the song’s latter-day overlong arrangement.
One more longer number before the homestretch: a sinewy Bartende” in what would now (like the midset “Watchtower”) be considered an atypical spot in the set.
While it featured some bobbing and weaving rhythm guitar counterpunches that sound great in this recording, this So Much To Say will be noted by nitpickers for Dave’s vocal flub. He starts the wrong verse but chases Carter off the usual background vocals for that verse (so Dave could come around to it later) with an in-rhythm “shaddup, shaddup, shaddup.”
Maybe Dave got caught thinking ahead to the Too Much fakeout into Ants Marching to close the set, another welcome variation on the SMTS>ASTB>Too Much standby. The transition was sharp, and a few barrelhouse-type fills closed out Butch’s night of distinction in Ants. It seems so normal there, but the band’s signature song closed the main set only three times that summer (the other setlist factoid about 8/29/00 is that it was one of only 6 shows that summer to give Grey Street the night off).
The night wrapped up with a standard encore of Digging A Ditch, featuring some sweet fills from Roi before giving way to a PNP>Rapnuzel finale.
A Dickens Of A Show
With the band in top form and excellent brand-new songs sprucing up the setlist, the summer seemed like a harbinger of good things to come. Reality would prove otherwise, but official releases of this night and the Hartford show two nights earlier form a tale of two cities that add up to fine listening from a classic month. With consistent performances and an equally well done mix, this show sits comfortably in the top tier of Live Trax picks.
Dave Matthews Band
8/29/00 @ SPAC
Saratoga Springs, NY
The Stone / Rhyme & Reason / Don’t Drink The Water / #41 > Grace Is Gone / JTR / What Would You Say? / The Maker > Watchtower / Crash Into Me / Minarets / Lie In Our Graves / Bartender / So Much To Say > Too Much (fake) > Ants Marching // Digging A Ditch / Pantala Naga Pampa > Rapnuzel