Tag Archives: leroi moore

Dave Matthews Band in 2018: ‘Come Tomorrow’, Tour, and More

It’s now been a decade since saxophonist LeRoi Moore‘s passing. Thinking of that this past weekend has pushed me to finally jot down some thoughts on the band as a whole, and how 2018 has seen DMB fully realize what, in my opinion, it has been inching toward for well over a decade. While LeRoi’s passing didn’t kick-start this evolution, it arguably accelerated it to a degree. And, given that it was such a (tragic) milestone in the band’s history, it’s natural that it played at least some sort of factor, even if not as large as one as may initially seem.

Equally noteworthy, at a minimum, in the band’s evolution was the 2008 tour itself, which of course coincided with Moore’s accident and subsequent death and Jeff Coffin‘s joining the band partway through as a replacement. Even before Moore’s accident, the 2008 tour included:
– Tim Reynolds’s return as a touring member and, though unknown at the time, a full-time member in his own right. (In years past he was an “unofficial sixth member,” along with Peter Griesar from the early 90s and Butch Taylor in the late 90s through 2007.)
– Butch Taylor’s sudden departure on the tour’s eve.
– An explosion of cover songs in rotation in the set list (e.g., “Money,” “Money, That’s What I Want,” “Sledgehammer,” “Burning Down the House,” etc.).
Some Devil songs regularly joining the setlist rotation.
(- Jeff Coffin eventually joining the band partway through the tour after Moore’s accident.)

I won’t re-hash old posts here, but a brief word on each of those points. I’ve written about this before, but Tim Reynolds’s guitar stylings while playing with the full band ’91-’98 are vastly different from ’08-present. (This is entirely separate from his playing with Dave on their acoustic tours, which continued throughout this whole time period, including the early ’00s.) In that first decade, even though he played electric guitar with a mostly acoustic ensemble, his playing fit within the band’s overall sound—part of the texture, often felt instead of heard. Upon his return, however, he cranked up the volume and gave the band a much more explicitly “rock” sound, and his presence couldn’t be mistaken.

Tim’s approach strongly complemented the new cover songs that debuted in 2008, both in style and arrangement: “Money” (Pink Floyd), “Sledgehammer” (Peter Gabriel), “Burning Down the House” (Talking Heads), “Hey Hey My My” (Neil Young), “Money, That’s What I Want” (Berry Gordy & Janie Bradford), “Bitch” (Rolling Stones), and “Thank You” (Sly & The Family Stone; formerly covered by Dave Matthews & Friends but not by DMB). Also noteworthy is that most of these cover songs lack a non-guitar solo (like the original), save “Money.” I write “style and arrangement” because these covers, unlike their most well-known previous covers performed with varying regularity (“All Along the Watchtower,” “The Maker,” “Long Black Veil,” “Angel From Montgomery”), were pretty straightforward. 2008’s then-new covers were less about being new versions of existing songs than they were with creating a fun vibe to add to the party-like atmosphere. Those that remain in 2018—e.g., “Sledgehammer” and “Burning Down the House”—haven’t much changed in arrangement over the last decade.

Of course, there’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg aspect at work here. Did the band’s approach to covers at all influence Tim’s approach to DMB’s catalogue—the prominent lead guitar needed for Pink Floyd then being mapped to Dave Matthews Band? Hard to say, but I’ve always wondered. After all, it’d be a little jarring to hear the DMB of 2007 or 2000 and then, midway through the set, be blasted by “Sledgehammer.” Even though Dave began selectively playing electric guitar live in 2001, “Eh Hee” or “So Right” didn’t provide the same wailing lead guitar as Pink Floyd’s “Money.”

Of course, it could be that Dave took the reins a little more aggressively and decided that that’s the sound he wanted…

In the past, it’s been noted here and there that the band—or at least select band members—had been pushing Dave to take up some more directional leadership within the group. Around the Lillywhite Sessions fallout and Everyday sessions, I got the impression in interviews that the band was going through the motions and rudderless (before Everyday), and that going into the studio for Everyday with Dave having already written much of the music with producer Glenn Ballard and providing charts to the band put some fresh wind under the band’s wings. And again, before LeRoi’s death, supposedly LeRoi told Dave in a moment of candor that he (Matthews) needed to lead the band and take charge.

Then there was the sudden departure of Butch Taylor for “personal reasons” right before the 2008 tour’s kickoff. It was never made publicly clear why he backed out, but speculation ran wild on message boards.* I felt like I was in the minority much of the time, but I was and remain a big fan of Butch Taylor’s playing, both with and without DMB. Even though I was gaining Tim Reynolds in 2008, it hurt to lose Butch Taylor. Perhaps Tim’s playing was a way to account for both electric guitar and a lost keyboardist? Who knows.

[*I try to avoid message boards—on DMB and anything else—completely, but this was one of 4 times I dove in to that toxic fever swamp as a reader-only for DMB material. The other three were this year: Boyd’s departure, Boyd’s #MeToo moment, and the 2018 tour kickoff. Every time I left exhausted and needing a shower. Woof. No more.]

[A digression, just to state this for the record: one of my first selfish thoughts upon learning of the possibility of both Tim Reynolds and Butch Taylor touring with DMB in 2008 (before Taylor’s departure) was the genesis and rapid blossoming of my wanting to see what would, for me, be the ultimate cover song that DMB could rip through: Elton John’s “Love Lies Bleeding.” Piano-driven rock with a strong lead guitar line, and the horns could provide some solid wall-of-sound harmonies throughout. My hopeless wishing was renewed this summer with the addition of Buddy Strong, but I’m certainly not holding my breath. (While I’m at it, EJ’s “My Father’s Gun” and “Burn Down the Mission” too, and both would be great with The Lovely Ladies…)]

With a few sporadic and rare exceptions, much of Dave Matthews’s solo album Some Devil wasn’t performed with the full band until 2008. And it didn’t take long for those solo songs to find a natural home in the DMB rotation, particularly “So Damn Lucky” and “Gravedigger.” The former quickly transformed early in the tour—the iterations I saw in Chicago (6/6), Detroit (6/9), and Buffalo (6/17) kept getting respectively longer, inching toward the large live jam it became by mid-summer.

Finally, of course, Jeff Coffin joined the band (becoming a full-time, permanent replacement), filling in for LeRoi Moore. I attended Jeff’s fourth show of that run (Rothbury 7/5/08), and it was wild seeing him up there with the music stand for the horn lines and then ripping during the solos. The latter part is notable in the respect that, before his accident, LeRoi Moore seemed to be playing fewer and/or shorter solos at the beginning of the tour, either splitting those duties even more with trumpeter Rashawn Ross or handing some over to Tim Reynolds. (I was particularly struck by his lack of solo on “#41” on 6/17, but those backing horn lines under Tim’s solo scratched me where I itched.) I knew there was talk throughout the band’s history of Roi’s wanting to eventually develop a full horn section. It took ~15 years to add a second horn, and the workload gradually evened out over the subsequent years, with Rashawn regularly guesting in the latter half of 2005, becoming a full-time touring member in 2006. Perhaps with Tim’s returning to the fold, Roi considered it an opportunity to build up the horn section as an entity? It’s another thought I’ve returned to many times over the years.

Along with Jeff’s solos, though, there’s another aspect that caught my eye. With now three virtuosic soloists (Jeff Coffin, Tim Reynolds, Rashawn Ross) hungry to play and make music with one another, what was violinist Boyd Tinsley to do? Continue with the same old tired and out-of-tune pentatonic scales and lukewarm enthusiasm save his one or two nightly solos? Again, it was around this time that my friend turned to me at the Gorge and remarked, “Where’s Boyd?” Even in 2007, though he was already a musical liability, there was still room sonically for Boyd’s melodies, countermelodies, and solos. In 2008, there was significantly less, with even less each subsequent year.

That was 2008. En route to 2018…

Beyond “new” members, the other original members kept on making music and advancing. Bassist Stefan Lessard particularly comes to mind, having pursued some Berklee College of Music coursework some years back. (I believe he was inspired by Rashawn Ross, an alumnus.) I remember thinking of the Rashawn/Berklee inspiration at night three of The Gorge in 2011 when Stefan opted to play the Prelude from J.S. Bach’s Suite I for unaccompanied cello as the intro to “All Along the Watchtower,” with Jeff and Rashawn watching with particularly rapt attention. That, and Stefan’s penchant for effects and hardware seems to have grown since Tim’s re-joining in ’08.

I’ve documented much of my thoughts many of the band’s developments elsewhere (here and here and here). In short, Tim gradually became a gargantuan sonic presence, Boyd became obviously irrelevant, the horn section evolved and became often a single entity, and the new songs reflected all of these changes. The band that originally went from local Charlottesville phenomenon to commercial juggernaut—the mostly acoustic band with no lead guitar and a sax and fiddle—became a full-on rock band with horns, especially from 2008 to this year. Enter Come Tomorrow, which completed the process.

I won’t write a full review of the album here, but it’s worth at least a surface-level discussion. In short, my thoughts after the first listen were:
– I liked it overall, despite “The Girl Is You.”
– As an album, it’s a bit of an odd entity.
– In context, the transformation was now complete.

I do like the album, and I’ve listened to it a lot this summer. But, to me, even more than Away From the World, Come Tomorrow is almost more of a Dave Matthews solo record than a DMB album. Almost. The identifiable horns are still there, and it helps that it includes some existing songs—including 2006’s “Idea Of You” and “Can’t Stop” and 2015’s “Virginia In The Rain,” “Black and Blue Bird,” “Again and Again” (formerly “Boblaw”—my personal favorite of the album), and “Be Yourself” (now “bkdkdkdd”). Boyd plays on only one track, “Idea Of You,” and it’s likely that his part was recorded years ago. And there’s only one horn solo on the whole album, a few seconds of Coffin’s soprano saxophone on “Black and Blue Bird”—track 10, deep into the album.

I consider it an “odd entity” because not only are some of the songs older, but the album was recorded over a ~12-year+ period and utilized four separate producers (Mark Batson, Rob Cavallo, John Alagia, and Rob Evans). The album’s not as cohesive a unit as others in my opinion, as it goes in many different directions, and the lack of a single producer keeps it from feeling completely unified, at least sonically. That said, it still mostly works, and it’s a rocking good time.

All that said, I like the album (save “The Girl Is You,” which is okay live—it’s the first studio recording I’ve yet to warm to in some respect), and to me it fits in the overall canon. Hell, even LeRoi Moore makes a couple of appearances, having participated in the early sessions for “Can’t Stop” and “Idea of You.” But it’s definitely a statement that this is a band unapologetically plowing ahead with its current iteration, be it DMB 3.0 or 4.0 depending on whom you ask. Whereas 2012’s Away From the World had a veneer of going back to the square one after 2009’s sonic memorial Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King—having Steve Lillywhite produce, including horn and violin solos (Boyd gets the album’s first solo break!), etc.—to me, it still sounded like more of a Dave Matthews solo record than a DMB album. In fact, I could make the case that Come Tomorrow is as big of a statement about the band’s sound, if not bigger, than Everyday was in 2001. (In brief, just because Dave played electric, the sax and violin still carried the melodic weight, among other aspects. It sounded new, but the structure remained the same. Here, however, the structure is explicitly changed.)

[Song selection aside, the album’s personnel dwarfs Before These Crowded Streets and covers a wide berth: both Butch Taylor and Buddy Strong on keys, the Lovely Ladies (Tawatha Agee, Candice Anderson, Sharon Bryant-Gallwey), and a panoply of auxiliary musicians including some notable names, including the one and only Luis Conte on percussion.]

With Come Tomorrow, however, it’s as if Dave made the decision to stand proud and say “this is who we are now, and we’re happy with it.” And, as far as I can tell, the band agrees and is equally enthusiastic. In fact, the best way I can really describe it is that I see 2018’s DMB as meaning Dave Matthews’s Band instead of (the) Dave Matthews Band. While still a group effort, I get the impression that Dave is more comfortable providing some sort of direction than in the past. Something I’ve noticed in interviews this summer is that he regularly refers to “my band.” While not the first time he’s said it, I didn’t notice that as much in the past. (Perhaps he said it often and it didn’t catch my attention.) And that’s not to say it’s meant at all negatively. Not at all. But it’s different from “our band” or “the band.”

On another personnel-related note, he did finally directly address Boyd Tinsley’s departure in a recent interview on iHeartRadio’s Inside the Studio podcast. In short, he admits to firing Tinsley for not pulling his weight, and that it was a long time coming. (And after the subsequent sexual harassment allegations against Tinsley, I doubt Boyd will be returning anytime soon…)

This may seem like a recipe for a real mixed bag on stage: one near-founding member gone, Dave taking control, and the addition of a new touring member (and what I assume to be full-time member) in keyboardist Buddy Strong. But after seeing three shows on this summer’s tour and listening to others in addition to it, I can safely say two things about Dave Matthews Band in 2018:
– This is the BEST the band has sounded live in AT LEAST a decade, if not more.
– It’s obvious that the band members are having a lot of fun playing together this year.

As an ensemble, the band sounds great. Not once during any of the shows I attended did I remotely miss Boyd’s playing or any of his musical parts. Beyond that, Buddy Strong fits nicely into the band—always felt, even if not explicitly heard. And Tim Reynolds has dialed back the sonic onslaught. He still shreds when required, but when he’s playing rhythm guitar it’s in the background, which wasn’t always the case in recent years. It’s a nice mix of ’90s Tim and early ’10s Tim.

As a quick example regarding much of what’s mentioned above, take DMB’s cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer,” one version from 2008 and another from this summer (where I was dancing in the audience).

2008’s “Sledgehammer” with overpowering electric guitar and a superfluous Tinsley at Mile High Music Festival:

2018’s “Sledgehammer” at SPAC:

What’s more, the band members are having fun. I’ve heard Dave say as much onstage and in interviews more times this summer than I have in probably the last decade combined. Not that they’ve been dourly going through the motions in years past. But between cutting loose the dead weight (Boyd Tinsley), bringing in some fresh blood with Buddy Strong, and the focus and clarity involved with incorporating the new album’s songs and arrangements into the rotation, it’s a recipe for success that has worked swimmingly this year.

The onstage enthusiasm around Strong is palpable and reminiscent of that around Jeff Coffin’s joining (despite the tragic consequences that caused it), and also that of Rashawn Ross.

As with any change, there are members of the fan community griping about Strong’s addition, Tinsley’s departure, the band’s sound, etc. I have copious thoughts on those complaints, but it’s not worth wasting the time on it here. Suffice it to say that there’s only one direction to go: forward. Miles Davis wasn’t playing “Autumn Leaves” and “Four” in the seventies and eighties; John Coltrane eventually stopped playing “Blue Train”; and Radiohead likely won’t be playing Pablo Honey front-to-back anytime soon. Artists will grow and evolve, for the better or worse. I’m pleased with where things are headed musically with DMB in 2018 and beyond. While Come Tomorrow won’t knock Crash off its pedestal anytime soon, what it signals is certainly reassuring to this longtime fan.

MTH-V: LeRoi Moore Highlights

As mentioned in my previous post, this last week marked the fifth anniversary of LeRoi Moore’s death. To mark both this and the return of the video series after the summer hiatus, it’s only fitting that I highlight a few choice moments here. Believe me, it’s difficult to select only a handful out of the many favorites.

“Sugar Will” is one of the handful of then new songs debuted on the 2004 summer tour. Only one of which, “Hello Again,” was ultimately given a studio release. However, “Sugar Will” and “Crazy Easy” were my favorites of that group (which also includes “Joy Ride,” featured here). Here’s Roi getting down on “Sugar Will” at The Gorge on 09.03.04, one I regularly return to:

“Stand Up” isn’t a song that gets a lot of love. This particular solo isn’t anything profound but it always gets me moving without fail. The video is taken from the bonus DVD in the Weekend on the Rocks box set (from the 2005 run at Red Rocks Ampitheater, with this song coming from 09.11.05). And Roi’s lick at 3:41 is a treat:

Here’s a charming cover of the country ballad “Long Black Veil” by Dave Matthews and LeRoi. For this video, someone synced their home footage with the audio from the official Gorge box set release. (Good move.)

DMB tearing up “Rapunzel” live at Germany’s Rockpalast 1998:

And a nice little Roi montage/tribute by YouTube user BWDinc:

LeRoi Moore: 5 Years On

LeRoi Moore, Dave Matthews Band saxophonist and founding member, died five years ago today. He succumbed to complications from an ATV accident a few weeks shy of his 47th birthday. I’m sure there’ll be various remembrances throughout the DMB-centric corner of the internet, but I’d like to chip in my $0.02. It seems cliché but, although I never met the man, he and his music are with me each day.

leroi1

Regular reader of this blog know my deep love of DMB’s music. (See below.) Not only does he play a large role in a favorite band, but I count him among one of my favorite saxophonists. I always include his name if someone asks who my biggest saxophonic influences are. Roi can’t be written off just as “the sax player” a la Dick Parry. It’d be presumptuous to say that Roi single-handedly changed how a saxophone was perceived in rock and pop music, but it’s notable that he served as the band’s co-lead soloist (along with violinist Boyd Tinsley). Sure, he was no Trane or Liebman, but he didn’t set out to be, at least not with DMB. (And, conversely, I don’t see either of them playing in Roi’s style the way he did.) For me, his playing is a near perfect blend of jazz-influenced, soulful rock and pop. It’s not to be compared to strictly jazz saxophonists because it’s not jazz. It’s a different aesthetic. And although he was a working jazz musician before DMB, he grew into something much more. In fact, looking back, while I’ve often gone through spells in which I aspired to be the next young jazz lion, the truth is that my aim has often been more in Roi’s direction – to be a high quality, stylistically flexible musician.

Though I knew of the band beforehand, it all really began with my purchasing Crash soon after its April 1996 release. As a young adolescent playing the saxophone, I was floored to hear a pop/rock band featuring the saxophone so prominently, and not just in the radio singles. At the time I was only tangentially interested in jazz, and most saxophonic pop references were of the “guest feature” variety, generally in a honky R&B style: Pink Floyd’s various sax cameos, 50s and 60s rock, etc. (I touch upon this continuing trend here.) Without this becoming a Crash-centric post, that album proved to be a real turning point for me. Roi’s solo on the studio recording of #41 is perhaps the first instrumental solo I committed to memory. And not because I made a conscious effort to do so; rather, I just listened to it all of the time. (Imagine my delight when I attended my first DMB concert and the band opened with “#41.”)

I remember the shock of learning the news the night he died. I was with my girlfriend (now wife) and she put up with my impromptu memorial service which included moping on my couch, teary-eyed, watching the Listener Supported DVD with a picture of Roi on my laptop screen. We fans knew that he’d been in critical condition, as he’d not been on the tour since late June (with Jeff Coffin – another of my favorite saxophonists, completely separate from his DMB association – filling in, later to be his permanent replacement). I’d spent every summer – and occasional winters – seeing him and his bandmates in concert since 2000, and I’ve missed him at every show since that night. Sure, I still have my hundreds of hours of recordings, but it’s just not the same. The band has taken a slightly different direction with Coffin now playing full time. It’s not worse or better, just different. I absolutely love what they’re doing now, but I miss Roi.

I made my annual pilgrimage to the band’s three-night stint at The Gorge Ampitheatre ten days after his death and it was an emotional weekend. After canceling a couple of concerts for the funeral, the summer tour resumed as normal that weekend in Washington. Watching the band, particularly Carter, play through “Bartender,” the weekend’s opener, in tears was moving. (There were many tears throughout that weekend.) On that first night, the crowd launched into an impromptu tribute of cheers and glow sticks for Roi between songs partway through the set. The crew flashed a picture of Roi on the screens and Dave told the band and crew to hold off until the crowd had finished. It was a memorable six minutes before the band launched into a special “#41.” I’ll never forget it. For those that may have been there, and other fans who weren’t, here it is in two parts:

And the tribute video shown before the encore each night brought a tear every time:

I still listen to Roi all the time, but he’s been getting some extra attention over the last week as the five year mark approached. It really does seem like just the other day I was enjoying his playing on the first part of the 2008 tour in Chicago, Detroit, and Buffalo. But at least I can still enjoy the wealth of great music he left behind. And to cap off this humble tribute, here is perhaps my single favorite solo of his from an official release: the flute and saxophone solos from “#41” on 1999’s Listener Supported:

For previous DMB-centric posts, see here, here, here, here, here, and here.

MTH-V: DMB’s “Mercy”

Today sees the release of Away from the World, Dave Matthews Band‘s eighth studio album. It’s notable for a variety of reasons, but primarily because:
1. It’s the first studio album to not include material from LeRoi Moore
2. It marks the return of producer Steve Lillywhite (who produced “the big three”: Under the Table and Dreaming, Crash, and Before These Crowded Streets)
3. It’s simply a new DMB studio album!

Regular readers know I’m a DMB fanatic and I’ve written about the group at length before and in three other MTH-V entries (here, here, and here). Simply enjoy the debut single’s video (“Mercy,” which features much many fan contributions) and get your copy ASAP. (My “super deluxe edition” should arrive any minute…)

Social Media: Stifle Yourself II

I briefly discussed my frustration with social media here about eighteen months ago. I can’t remember what specifically moved me to write that, but I clearly recall being annoyed while I typed. (The heat didn’t help; I was living in Houston at the time.) Regardless of what was happening then, one things remains true: the social media (over)saturation has only increased, and I don’t think it’s all been for the better.

Sure, I tweet. And have a Facebook page (now a “lovely” Timeline). And have satisfied the LinkedIn and Google+ requirements. And tumbleweed occasionally brushes past my space. (Yawn.) But for those of you who may be connected to me through those various avenues, you know that I’m not the most voracious user. The networks mentioned above are listed in order of activity. I’ll tweet a few times each week, but 99% of those are related to either blog updates or gigs and recordings. Occasionally I’ll tweet something separate, as I did on Sunday about the Charles Lloyd concert. Same goes for Facebook. The rest are pretty much parked to secure the name and satisfy my minimum requirements of existing and have a “friend”/connection. I’ll accept incoming requests, but rarely am I logged in or doing anything. I think I can safely say that my online presence is an abject failure, considering I never created a Tumblr and only recently joined SoundCloud (again, mainly to park).

In full disclosure, I am pretty active with Twitter and Facebook (aside from personal/private accounts), and do see their value. They’re interactive – allowing me to be more interactive via my site and blog – and are helpful tools for getting short bursts of information out to people. With social media in general, I try to stick to the core: information and interaction.

Since first securing michaelteager.com a number of years ago I intended for my website to serve as the hub. I still do. The main site and MT-Headed are where you can find all you need to know about Michael Teager the musician, teacher, and blogger/writer. All else is just a satellite, nothing more than a TIE Fighter to this Death Star. You won’t find much of anything different on the other sites, and that’s not unintentional.

A few months ago I was listening to Paul F. Tompkins discuss his social media presence on The Long Shot, and my jaw hit the ground when he said he’d like to trade in his main website for separate, equally active presences on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. It just doesn’t compute for me. Similarly, Spin magazine recently went über-hipster by focusing on album review tweets. Lame. Have our attention spans really become that short? Is general readership just that lazy? Or are so many figures and organizations so desperate to be on the “cutting edge” of social media that they’re willing to sacrifice part of their core platform in the process? (I fear it’s a combination of all three, with the latter taking the largest bulk of blame.) If someone’s interested, my hunch is that he or she will click the mouse or tap the screen. Perhaps more than once! If twice is too much, then perhaps a “fan” wasn’t really lost…

Perhaps my biggest complaint about social media in general is that with everyone gunning to get everyone’s attention at all times, there’s too much irrelevant information churned out each and every hour. After all, I’m subscribed to a whole host of outlets for updates on items of interest. However, to retrieve that information, I have to suffer through so much garbage that it’s often more trouble than it’s worth. It’s too Who cares?!? as opposed to Hey, that’s neat! I’m sure I spend at least 90% of my time deciding what not to read rather than what to click through to. (There’s a similar correlation to my nightly comb through my RSS subscriptions, but that’s more heavily curated.)

As mentioned, I do enjoy the interaction. However, not every tweet or update warrants a response from everyone else. Not everything requires a snarky comment (and this is coming from a snarky cynic). And not everyone needs to provide a Hallmark-esque comment for every holiday, award, or death of anyone above a D-list celebrity. Too much piffle leads me to likely ignore the more substantial updates and tweets. (Yes, I publicly grieved – digitally – for LeRoi Moore, George Carlin, and Peter Steele, but they are figures who’ve meant a lot to me over many years, especially the first two.)

If only Archie had lived long enough to tweet…