Last night, on the eve of the release for their new album, Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, Dave Matthews Band played an unusually intimate show at New York City’s Beacon Theater. For a group that routinely plays amphitheaters and stadiums – they had wrapped up a two-day stint at Fenway just two days prior – this was the holy grail for hardcore fans (tickets on Craigslist were going well into the thousands; firstborns also up for grabs.) To tie in with their juggernaut of press this week, which includes stops by Jimmy Fallon and the Today Show, DMB threw a bone to the fans who couldn't attend by broadcasting the entire show live and without ads on the Fuse network, as well as Hulu.
Having had the good fortune to attend the show myself, it was hard not to think about how the whole thing would look on TV or a laptop. The excitement in the room was palpable, but would the energy get lost in the airwaves? After the jump, read my take on the show, both in person and on screen the next day.
The show, which you can still watch in it's entirety on Hulu, as well as on a Friday re-broadcast on Fuse, was certainly unconventional by DMB standards. Tunes off the new album dominated the first half of the set – in fact, it wasn’t until the tenth song (“Everyday”) that the band dipped into their back catalog.
Of the roughly three-hour-long set, seven of 21 songs were off GrooGrux, with the rest split between random tunes from the band's back catalog like “Out of My Hands” (with Dave on piano), “You Might Die Trying”, and perennial fan faves “Ants Marching,” “#41,” “Two Step,” and set closer “Grey Street.” The highlight (in my mind) of both the new album and last night’s show was “Why I Am,” which the band dedicated to their late bandmate LeRoi Moore. See the clip below for the song, and Dave’s heartfelt tribute to Moore. Watching my TiVo this morning and checking it out on Hulu, this was the moment that seemed to transcend whether or not you were there in person.
Speaking of watching it the next day, there were a few things I was quite jealous that fans at home got a piece of: Catching the onstage interactions and facial expressions between members is something you just can’t see from most parts of the venue (I loved the footage of Carter laughing at Dave’s general goofiness/giddiness last night.) You also get bathroom breaks without the worry of missing your favorite song and different angles from which to see it all unfold, and you don't have anyone bumping into you/spilling beer on you all night (or maybe you do. No judgment.)
That said, being there was worth any incidental aggravations. In 2003, when I attended DMB’s concert in Central Park, I stood outside for well over 14 hours to get a spot, ran the length of a football field to get as close to the stage as I could, and arrived back home at 3 a.m., dirty and exhausted. And while the CP footage was pretty amazing (those aerial views of the concert were breathtaking), it will never quite match being there. Though last night’s broadcast on both Hulu and Fuse were fantastic, there is something special about seeing Dave do his crazy dance moves in person.
OK, so maybe live broadcasts or DVDs never fully do what being there actually does, let’s still be grateful we have them as an option. Today, the 40th anniversary director’s cut of Woodstock hits stores today, and while I’m sure that for those lucky flower children who took part in history nothing will compare, thank God someone had the good sense to film the whole thing for future generations to watch, marvel, and envy.
What do you think, Music Mixers? Can television or movies ever do justice to the live concert experience? Do you hope more bands follow DMB’s suit and broadcast on Hulu, too? Were you at last night’s show or did you watch from the comfort of home?