Dave Matthews Band starts casually, then hits full stride

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Twenty years have passed since “Under the Table and Dreaming” put a generation of college students on a first-name basis with Dave Matthews and his band. Inevitably, those fans have gone on to an adulthood more or less like that described in “Ants Marching.”

These fans' devotion to the band despite careers, kids and mortgages is testament not only to nostalgia but also to the prescience and basic truth of Mr. Matthews’ songwriting.

Dave Matthews Band had those longtime fans in mind Saturday at First Niagara Pavilion in Burgettstown, with a four-and-a-half-hour show that largely avoided radio hits, delved deep into their catalog, and featured a guest performance by banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck.

The sold-out show started off as casually as an open mic: Mr. Matthews walked onstage alone, played “Beach Ball,” and was joined by his six band mates for the rest of the all-acoustic opening set, which included the rarely played “Minarets” and “Christmas Song.”

The band opened the electric set with “Save Me” from Mr. Matthew’s solo album and found their stride with “Warehouse,” led by Boyd Tinsley’s explosive fiddle work. “Crush” began at dusk with Jeff Coffin's playful sax solo and ended -- after solos by Mr. Tinsley and guitarist Tim Reynolds -- well after dark.

Mr. Matthews danced on “Seven" and let the crowd sing most of "Jimi Thing" before throwing down some scat and leading the band into jazz oblivion. Mr. Fleck joined the band for “Don’t Drink the Water,” with a scathing, standout vocal delivery by Mr. Matthews. By “Cornbread,” Mr. Fleck was warmed up and delivered a blistering banjo solo.

The band ended their encore with an “Ants Marching” so jazzed out and abstracted that at moments it was like listening to John Coltrane play “My Favorite Things.” But they brought the song home in standard fashion, and as a few thousand fans sang along for the song's final line, Dave Matthews Band showed no intention of up and dying anytime soon.

Brett Sholtis: Bsholtis@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581 First Published June 29, 2014 12:00 AM

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