On a cool night last Friday at our favorite outdoor venue, Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds took the stage as all 8,500 fans at Berkeley’s Greek Theatre rose to their feet to welcome them. This was night one of three “Very Special Shows” with the Dave Matthews Band. The crowd was hyped. Many fans were proud to share that they were coming all three nights — a true affirmation of the band’s loyal following.

Dave and Tim opened with “Bartender,” requiring nothing more than their two guitars and Dave’s voice. As the song ended, the full band came out to join them for the rest of the set. This was the beginning of a very special night indeed. After an eight song acoustic set, DMB came back out for an eleven song electric set, followed by a four song encore. They played for nearly three hours to an entirely captivated audience.

The audience-band interaction was facilitated by the venue’s intimate feel, despite it’s sellout crowd of over 8,000 people. The Greek, with its beautiful columns and views of Berkeley and the Bay Area, is a perfect venue for artists of Dave Matthews’ caliber who want to get a little closer to their fans instead of selling out stadiums.

Despite the large crowd and the change from acoustic to electric, the whole show kept the feel of one large jam session. The combination of horns and strings was completely unified. Part jazz band, part orchestra, the acoustic set was everything fans could have wanted.

As the lighting got increasingly brighter, from white, to blue, to red, and finally to purple, the acoustic set wound down. It was when the electric set started that Dave truly came into his own as a frontman. During “Seven,” Dave’s rock and roll persona came out in full force. He grooved around, dancing and expertly commanding the crowd.

    For the final four songs of the electric set, Dave treated us to something surprisingly wonderful, the return of the Lovely Ladies, his old touring mates from the 90’s and early 2000’s. They’ve been with DMB all summer and their stage presence and vocals bring a feminine touch to a show dominated by male musicians.

    The crowd was mostly 30 to 40 year olds, but their energy level was just as high as any other show. They were on their feet dancing to every song. They knew every lyric and many camped out all day to pack into the pit. As we’ve said before, a crowd can make or break a show, and DMB fed off the crowd’s love, giving it right back.     

The night included a cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer,” as well as a shorter-than-usual six minute version of “Two Step.” Violinist Boyd Tinsley’s solos were easily a highlight of the night. During the acoustic set, Dave stood in the back, forming a semicircle with all of the band members, as if it was just the band, and not his band. It was clear that he recognizes the talents of his band mates and knows that they are just as big of stars as he is.

With the intimate setting of the Greek, the Dave Matthews Band was able to connect with the audience while delivering a high energy show that went late into Friday evening. Dave’s showmanship as both a band leader and a band member reflected the band’s long history together and ability to work as a group to put on one very special night.

Photos by Sam Engel / Senior Staff