As myself and my friend Lesley left The Waterfront in Belfast last night to catch my bus home at the tail-end of Dave Matthew’s acoustic gig, I thought to myself “if he plays ‘Jimi Thing’ now and I miss it I’ll be very upset!”. But he didn’t and a minute later the crowd rolled out after 150 minutes of great musicianship, fantastic songs and Dave’s entertaining anecdotes and repartee.
Dave’s first tour of Ireland, which took in Dublin on Monday night as well, was an incredible success judging by the rave reviews and sell-out crowds that he attracted in both cities. Matthews popularity here is not like it is in North America. His releases go unpromoted and he has never had a hit single or album in Ireland. Even in the UK “The Space Between” is the only single to break the top 40 and that was only because it was featured briefly in a popular Nokia ad campaign.
On the tour he was accompanied by his long-time acoustic collaborator, Tim Reynolds, who is quite a guitar virtuoso. Dave himself was in fine form and told numerous amusing stories about his large dinner (“I had the duck. And the lamb.”) and his dog’s tendency to fart on planes.
The setlist was long and varied. He did the classics (“Dancing Nancies”, “Satellite”, “Two Step”, “Crash”, “Cry Freedom” [gave me goosies]), the mid-period stuff (“When the World Ends”, “Don’t Drink the Water”, “Crush”), the pseudo-solo tracks from “Busted Stuff” (“Grey Street”, “Where Are You Going”, “Grace is Gone”, “Bartender”) and his own solo material (“So Damn Lucky”, “Some Devil”, “Save Me” and of course “Gravedigger”) amongst others. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the night was how good the material from the recent ** band album “Stand Up” sounded (“Old Dirt Hill”, “Smooth Rider”). The production on that album messed up really good songs.
I know it’s cliché to say it about a gig you have just been to but that is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. It’s true that towards the end of a 2 1/2 hour acoustic gig you do get tired because you are looking at two guys sitting down in the same spot for most of it, but the music and musicianship did the talking. Wonderful stuff.
If he’s coming to a town near you I implore you to go.