West Valley City • Even under normal circumstances, listening to the Dave Matthews Band can be a challenging experience. That’s especially true for the casual music enthusiast.
There were plenty of challenges Tuesday night at a two-thirds full Usana Amphitheatre.
It looked like it might be a beautiful late August evening with a rainbow behind the stage, when the wind blew in a rainstorm moments before the band took the stage. Though the rain mercifully abated early in the show, it left the audience damp and cold, especially since the wind gusted much of the evening.
The sound system that made it difficult to understand Matthews lyrics and the audience was more inclined to shout and party than listen to the show. Yes, things were on the challenging side.
That said, none of this seemed to matter to Matthews’ fans who grooved, sang, danced and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the fine musicianship of the veteran performers.
Matthews opened with “Don’t Drink the Water” and performed well over two hours, giving his band members plenty of opportunities to show off their many skills.
What makes this a popular live band is the formula that once made the Grateful Dead legendary. Each show is a unique experience, where the musicians jam, improvise and surprise.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was an appearance by Mickey Raphael, Willie Nelson’s veteran harmonica player, who joined Matthews on stage for a rousing and well done number that more than showed off his skills.
It was a strange evening where the sound and the show seemed better from the cheap seats and even the lawn than up close. Watching the excellent video screen and light show from a distance proved almost more satisfying than being close to the stage.
Judging from the rhythmic dancing and shouts from the alcohol-infused crowd, many wearing plastic rain jackets, the lawn wasn’t a bad place to be.
This band has been together for a long, long time and it shows. Violinist Boyd Tinsley, drummer Carter Beauford, the South African-born Matthews, bassist Stefan Lessard, sax player Jeff Coffin, horns ace Rashawn Ross and guitar player Tim Reynolds seem to know each others’ every move.
Matthews uses his interesting and distinct voice almost more as a musical instrument than as a story teller. In many of the songs, the band sounds as if it is playing zydeco, though rock and jazz roots come into play as well.
Songs such as “The Space Between Us,” “Rooftop” and my personal favorite of the night, “What Would You Say,” provide an interesting blend of styles.
The Dave Matthews Band has a unique sound that is unlike just about anything you might hear. It can be challenging unless you choose to simply groove, sway and occasionally sing along to the beat, something Tuesday’s USANA audience seemed more than willing to do.
With • The Head and the Heart
Where • USANA Amphitheatre, West Valley City
When • Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2013