SNHU Arena, Manchester NH
December 04 2018
My lady loves the Dave Matthew Band, and I’ve been digging on it since the mid 1990s, and we go normally once a summer. She’s gone more than I have but I dig it, and while we already attended this summer down in Hartford, when I saw that DMB was coming close enough in Manchester NH I thought, what the heck, it’s the holidays, let’s go.
I left work early with my girl on my arm, and we traveled what should have been about ninety minutes up toward Manchester NH. About ten minutes short of the city, we heard the telltale wump wump wump of a flat tire and pulled over. It’s a good thing we left so early! We called AAA and they came in about a half an hour. It took another half an hour to fix. At this point, while we were still super on time for the show, we knew we were going to have a hard time also getting something to eat. We looked up and right across the street from our now fixed tire location was the Airport Diner, and BAM! problem solved. Two dinners to go, which we consumed in the parking lot prior to the show, and we were on our way, sated and ready.
This is probably the fourth or fifth show I’ve seen in the venue that is now called the SNHU Arena. It was recently the Verizon Wireless Center where I’ve seen Furthur at least once, and Rush at least once if not twice, and now DMB. As a venue, it has it’s ups and downs. It’s capacity is just short of twelve thousand, making it on the more cozy side of an arena show. But it is clearly built as a hockey arena and the acoustics for concerts is not great.
This proved to be true in the first few songs of the DMB show, with a very bassy wump wump-iness that was trouble both for my tire earlier that night and for the enjoyment of a clean concert sound. They did get it together in the first few songs, but the sound never came close to pristine and at best was serviceable. The vocals weren’t clear and in general there was a muddiness in the sound that the band could not shake, and perhaps they weren’t even aware of it.
The show was otherwise quite good. Unlike a summer show, which feels as if celebration is on everyone’s mind and on the lips of the performers, this was more of a blue collar show. In that I mean that it felt like a professional band playing before adoring fans on a Tuesday night not in a big city. It was a celebration for all in attendance, but it had the feel of a band going to work, and their job is to be one of the biggest rock bands in the world. I admire this type of approach, and have seen it in others from Dickey Betts to Rush to other hard working touring bands. It shows an understanding of the road, of the challenge and beauty of playing nearly every night, most nights of the year. Go out, do your job, put on a great show, sweat, sing, laugh, joke, cry a little and again, put on a great show. DMB is able to do this.
The song list was a mix of classics, lesser known older songs, and newer material. They covered a couple of rock classics, every band member got a significant piece of spotlight during the show, and the audience got to have a great time.
Tim Reynolds is a whiz on the guitar and shines any time that Dave points to him, but holds back and supports the band when he’s not shining. New keyboard man Buddy Strong is a great keys player, and a welcome sunny presence on stage. The horns are strong and can both support and shine, and of course the rhythm section of Stefan Lessard, who adds tremendously to the band’s sound, and drummer Carter Beauford, who is one of the best touring drummers in a non metal or prog band in the world- are excellent.
The band is very thick in terms of their sound, and fully orchestrated from top to bottom. This was evident despite the lack of clarity on the sound. It does mean that having them in venues that don’t have pristine sound does create a situation that is lacking some of their aural and subtle elements. But rock concerts happen in arenas, so…
The experience was super fun, and the repaired tire made it possible for us to get back to MA easily enough. I may have to decide whether or not that particular venue is good enough acoustically to justify seeing shows, and that may really depend on the act. But as a date night with my lady who loves DMB, it was a perfectly lovely evening. We will surely be seeing the band somewhere next summer.
Funny the Way It Is
The Best of What’s Around
Again and Again
Don’t Drink the Water
Burning Down the House (Talking Heads cover)
Come On Come On
Sledgehammer (Peter Gabriel cover)
You & Me
Sexy M.F. (Prince cover)
Kill the Preacher (partial)
Why I Am
Crash Into Me
What Would You Say
Pantala Naga Pampa (>>)