Only by the grace of Dave did Bonnaroo finally wrap before midnight on its fourth and final day. Prone to play more than two or even three hours at a time, Dave Matthews Band capped the night off in an hour-fifty, shining the fest in Manchester, Tenn., off with his version of “Watchtower,” including the “Stairway to Heaven” solo.
Dave Matthews Band, Phoenix, Miranda Lambert close out Bonnaroo
In fact, Matthews did two cover songs in his encore, with that and a song “by a friend of mine,” Neil Young”s “The Needle and the Damage Done,” solo acoustic.
So that”s the end. From the beginning, DMB stuck to its M.O. of momentously long jams, tracks like “Spaceman” and “Tripping Billies” going on for eight, nine, 10 minutes in trade-offs between Boyd Tinsley on violin, saxophonist Jeff Coffin, special guest and frequent collaborator Tim Reynolds, et cetera.
[More thoughts on this show and others after the jump…]
There were also a few key quips from Matthews, who was very, erm, jolly: “That smell…” he smiled early on. “Herb and body odor.” By mid-set – hell, song number two – he was drenched in sweat, having overdressed in a black button-down with rolled up sleeves. It looked like shiny leather. They were asking him backstage if he wanted to change his shirt. “What”s the point?” he said, then mentioning that it looked like he peed in his pants, “Maybe I did.”
“Seven” was beautifully delivered, challenging Matthews” voice, which seemed to fail him only occasionally, while “Groogrux King” was mercifully short.
However, the band (which included two trumpeters tonight) meandered into smooth jazz territory, especially on “Lying in the Hands of God” and the suggestive (OK, horny) “Shake Me Like a Monkey.”
That”s the catch with Dave Matthews Band: they are an extraordinary group of gifted rock musicians capable of extraordinarily boring music. They can take what are pretty standard, memorable, tunes and, live, elongate them more into an idea of a song, a Dave Matthews song, and those of indifferent crescendos and samey-sounding solos start to wear on the whole of the set. Like the trance interstitials in a DJ set, these are what weed out the diehards for the dying.
And indeed, this crowd was wrecked but willing, flinging glow sticks and mostly standing, that is, until the end, when damp bodies were strewn in uncomfortably slumbering positions between those stoned, those amped and those determined to stay up ’til the bitter end.
Best part of today was Miranda Lambert. Why is this woman not famous. I say this as a statement and not as a question, because there is no question. The enormous tent – which hosted other country acts during the day – was only half full, but you could hear her voice everywhere near the grounds. It has a sharp, concise twang to it, like a harder-edged Dolly, and her speaking voice rang like Kristin Chenoweth”s.
This marked the first time she felt like she was really getting a contact high, she said. “I like this place!”
“Kerosene” has the same energy as the first NFL game of the season, and her “Heart Like Mine,” for all its challenge to the Christian status quo, feels surprisingly honest from this former church choir member. Blonde and most definitely a Nashvillian convert, she giddily exclaimed the thrill of playing in the same spot as hot topic Jamey Johnson and “Kris Krist-frickin”-offerson.”
She constantly played up her small town Texas roots, and her ability to drink, in tracks like “Dry Town.” You would have never thought she first got her spotlight in a reality show.
It began with “Lisztomania” and ended with “1901”: for some, everything in between was just waiting time. But so many fans also learned that “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” is not Phoenix“s only album, and so they played tracks like “Long Distance Call” and “Love Like a Sunset.” Frontdude Thomas Mars gets so much attention because of his never-failing, punchy voice and cute, dancing shifts around the stage, but I did notice more this time around in seeing them that drummer Thomas Hedlund is really driving this pretty sportscar of a band.
Ween is a band that thousands have followed around the country, and a subculture structured around Gene and Dean Ween makes as much sense at Bonnaroo as it would anywhere else. They had their own country moment with “Booze Me Up and Get Me High,” went Steely Danish on “Your Party,” put their foot down on “Exactly Where I”m At” and boogie oogied through “Voodoo Lady.” One hilarious and creepy moment came with their cover of Bowie”s “Let”s Dance,” which coincided with the moment that one young lady in the audience decided to ride high on her boyfriend”s shoulders with her top off. Gene (I think it was Gene?) luridly smoked a cigarette and stared at the young gal as she waved her arms a scant couple dozen yards away. It was a creepy and a propos segway into singing.
I am also distressed to see that Ween and Tenacious D have never toured together, which seems like such a perfect, perverted four-way marriage.
Regina Spektor hit all the right notes with well-known and lesser-knows –“Folding Chair,” “Poor Little Rich Boy,” “Hotel Song,” “Laughing With,” “Fidelity” – but she did her best try at a country song, too, on “Love, You”re a whore.” Her voice was very clean. She called us heat superheroes.
I finally have seen Kris Kristofferson in concert, and it was literally the only solo act show I saw all long weekend. It was also the only performance that could give me goosebumps in this ridiculously hot weather.
His voice crackled like Johnny Cash”s did on the latter-day American Recordings, and he declared he may melt into a puddle of water in his boots by set”s end. He would quite literally forget lyrics mid-verse, while at other times would rush straight into the next song without even a second to glance at his setlist. “I”m losing my memory,” he said, without sadness but also without an expected wink that old folks like to use when they talk about their age.
Still, he thrilled himself and us in actual self-deprecating humor. After a clunky but touching harmonica stanza in “Jesus Was a Capricorn,” he smirked “It ain”t Dylan, but it”s all we got.” He joked about the omnipresent marijuana smoke and sent songs out to his “kids and their mamas.”
“Loving her was easier than anything I”ll ever do again” he sang, crackling; “Billy Dee” and “Come Sundown” made everyone in the house want to pick up a guitar and start a fire somewhere. It was a thrill to see Jamey Johnson revved, standing next to Kristofferson, as they duetted on “For the Good Times.” What a gem.