Dave Matthews Band is alive and better than ever

Dave Matthews Band
Dave Matthews Band
Photo by Dave Matthews Band
| Wednesday, May 29, 2013, 6:51 p.m.

In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine last year, Dave Matthews created a major stir with quotes that some interpreted as a sign his band's days together might be numbered.

Matthews spoke of having to “dig a lot harder” as time goes on to come up with songs he wants the band to record — a statement that made some wonder whether the group was losing its creativity.

Asked about where he sees the Dave Matthews Band going from here, the front man answered, “I don't know,” adding that while he feels lucky to be part of a band that turns on lots of fans and does the same for the band members, he questions if the group is losing legitimacy.

That was enough to send fans — many of whom are known to be unusually invested the group — into a tizzy.

The interview coincided with the release of “Away From the World,” the latest album from the group, which also includes bassist Stefan Lessard, violinist Boyd Tinsley and drummer Carter Beauford.

But a summer later, and there's another full slate of Dave Matthews Band concerts, including a May 31 stop at First Niagara Pavilion in Burgettstown.

And if that's not enough of a promising sign for fans, maybe the comments from Lessard in a mid-May phone interview will provide the necessary reassurance.

He says the band is in a good place — and, in some respects, the group is doing better than it has at other points in a career that dates back to 1991, when the group formed in Charlottesville, Va.

“Onstage, we're the best of friends, and there's nothing but love and heart when I look at everyone onstage while they're playing and while I'm playing,” Lessard says. “It hasn't always been like that. It hasn't always felt like that. But it's been going like that for the past few years now. And it really keeps getting stronger every time.”

One of the reasons the Dave Matthews Band is still thriving, Lessard says, is the band as a whole has been willing to give Matthews room to follow his vision when needed.

That was very much the case with “Away From the World.”

“(Matthews) went off and wrote all of the songs to ‘Away From The World,' which is not necessarily the way this band always is making music,” Lessard says. “I feel like ‘Away From The World' kind of was ... the Dave Matthews Band backing Dave's solo record. It came from him. It was very personal. And that's a great moment.”

The group has certainly been tested at times during its hugely successful career, including a strained period in 2006 when the band nearly split and then the death of original saxophone player LeRoi Moore in 2008 from injuries he sustained in an all-terrain vehicle accident. To be sure, it was a heavy loss for Moore's bandmates. But Matthews said it actually became a positive force within the group, bringing the four remaining members closer together.

This summer, the four core members of the Dave Matthews Band — joined by frequent auxiliary members Jeff Coffin (horns), Rashawn Ross (trumpet) and Tim Reynolds (guitar/multi-instrumentalist) — tour the country.

The shows will be notably different from those the Dave Matthews Band played in 2012.

“Last year, we were still sort of touring with a new record (‘Away From the World'), so we were really pushing those new songs,” Lessard says.

“In fact, a couple of times we played through the whole record, which, for us, is historic. We'd never done that before, during one show at least. And so, this year, it's one of those years where we're sort of in between albums. We're not really pushing a whole new set of new songs. So, it allows for us to take our time in the rehearsals and look at some of the older tunes that we haven't played for awhile and bring those back out, and also take songs that we had played one way live at one time, maybe change them up.”

Alan Sculley is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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