Music Review

Dave Matthews Band layers current hits with deep tracks

Jams, standbys add spirit to 3-hour show

Dave Matthews (shown on stage in Syracuse) keeps his set list fresh.
Larry Busacca/Getty Images/File 2012
Dave Matthews (shown on stage in Syracuse) keeps his set list fresh.

Dave Matthews made his third trip to the area Sunday night, bringing his namesake band to the TD Garden just a few months after playing the Life is good festival in Canton and at the Comcast Center before that.

But the faithful who packed the Garden were rewarded with an experience distinctly different from those other two.

There wasn’t a question of which show was best, as the Dave Matthews Band (or in the case of Life is good, a duo outing with Dave Matthews guitarist Tim Reynolds) is consistent even while performing within the wide borders of a jam band.


Perhaps this visit was a bit more special in that reggae great Jimmy Cliff opened the show, mixing such anthems as “Sitting in Limbo” and “I Can See Clearly Now” with crisp new tracks “One More” and “World Upside Down.”

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Matthews replenishes his songbook more frequently than the typical road-warrior band. His shows layer in a lot of new material, not just current hits but deep tracks as well, and in best-case scenarios Matthews molds the new into memorable concert staples.

The nearly three-hour show Sunday started down that route with boisterous outings on “Squirm” and “Broken Things,” both from the Dave Matthews Band’s two most recent albums. The show moved along nicely with a mix of ensemble jams and songs such as “#41” that opened up to various spotlight solos.

The middle of the concert got a little soft as a run through new songs including “The Riff” and “Drunken Soldier” didn’t find the band stretching out or Matthews infusing the tunes with a memorable spark.

The band retuned to dependable standbys “Granny,” “Lie in Our Graves,” and “What Would You Say” to restore the groove and spirit of the concert’s start.


And then the band pushed itself to a teetering edge with a pairing of “Time Bomb” and “Two Step” that was ample payback for the midshow meandering.

While the band thrived in the moment, Cliff reveled in the power of the classic song, letting his nine-piece band and own limber voice find fresh ways into standards.

Scott McLennan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ScottMcLennan1