Weekend in SF
We're just back from a fun-filled weekend in Mountain View where we caught a concert and hung out in a neat hotel (they provided a slinky). The show was GREAT and I thought I'd quote the following article which described the band's performance of the previous evening. By the way, Carter Beauford really is THAT good.

Dave Matthews Band sharp at Shoreline GROUP SOUNDING, PLAYING BETTER THAN EVER By Jim Harrington MediaNews

It's odd to think of a two-night stand at Shoreline Amphitheatre as downsizing for a rock act.

Yet, that's exactly what it was for the Dave Matthews Band when it visited the 22,000-capacity Mountain View venue on this past Friday and Saturday nights. That's because the last two times through the Bay Area DMB performed at even bigger venues -- drawing some 50,000 fans to a free show at Golden Gate Park in 2004 and then performing two nights at AT&T Park last year.

Equally odd was that one could see green on the Shoreline lawn --enough green to build a few new duplexes -- as the band took the stage on Friday. That was not only a sign of DMB's dip in popularity as a live act, especially from a few years back when it could sell out multiple nights at football stadiums, but a clear example of the general downturn in overall concert attendance. Even the biggest acts in the concert industry, of which DMB certainly qualifies as one, are having a hard time filling places like Shoreline to capacity.

Issues of popularity aside, the Dave Matthews Band is currently sounding and playing better than at any other time during its 17-year career. Grab a recording of Friday's show -- which shouldn't be hard to find, since DMB still allows fans to tape its concerts -- and then compare it to, say, the band's ``Live Trax Vol. 4,' which chronicles a 1996 concert in Virginia. You might have a hard time believing that both sets come from the same band -- the sound is now so much fuller and the songs are vastly more powerful than 10 years ago.

That's what, ideally, is supposed to happen to a group: It's supposed to get better. That hasn't happened with most bands that first made it big in the early '90s. Yet, DMB has continually found new ways to improve its game in the live arena.

Following an opening set by pedal-steel guitar guru Robert Randolph and his Family Band, Matthews and his sidemen -- bassist Stefan Lessard, saxophonist Leroi Moore, violinist Boyd Tinsley, drummer Carter Beauford, keyboardist Butch Taylor and guest trumpeter Rashawn Ross -- took the stage in a decidedly casual fashion. Dressed in a simple hooded sweatshirt and worn blue jeans, the vocalist-guitarist strolled to the front of the stage and applauded the crowd. The fans returned the gesture a thousandfold.

Although DMB's fan base isn't as large as it was earlier in the decade, it remains one of the most passionate in all of rock 'n'roll. Take, for instance, Tracey Borowski of Newport Beach, who was experiencing her seventh DMB show in two weeks on Friday night.

``I'm a real fan,' Borowski said.

The crowd was full of real fans, who seemingly knew every word to every song and sang along with gusto as the band opened the show with a mellow, friendly version of ``Everyday' and then cranked up the intensity for ``Big Eyed Fish.'

The group sounded great -- led, as per usual, by Beauford, who continues to make the case that he deserves to be ranked among the finest drummers in rock history.

As the band moved through sensational versions of ``Bartender' and ``If I Had It All,' it was easy to see how a drum junkie would come to DMB just to watch Beauford play, much like how a guitar freak would go see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to stare at Mike Campbell. Eschewing all of the over-the-top theatrics that one normally associates with A-list rock drummers -- hello, Tommy Lee! -- Beauford always finds a way to shine within the framework of each song. He's the kind of drummer that a jazz cat would appreciate.

Matthews proved to be a very versatile singer on this night. He showed an amazing degree of sensitivity as he cradled such gentle ballads as ``Loving Wings' and ``Stolen Away On 55th and 3rd.' Then, like some switch was flipped on, he sang like a madman just escaped from an institution as he brought tangible drama and passion to``Bartender' and ``Hunger for the Great Light,' which might be the best song currently in the band's rotation.

The singer ranks as one of the greatest screamers in rock, following in the fabled footprints of the likes of Roger Daltrey and Janis Joplin, and fans simply can't get enough of it.

``I love it when he screams at us. I think that's the hottest thing. It turns me on,' said Borowski, who works as a professional dog walker when she's not following DMB around the country. ``I don't need a boyfriend when I have him singing to me.'

Following big versions of the fan favorites ``Dancing Nancies' and``What Would You Say,' Matthews invited Randolph back to the stage and the pedal-steel great helped the band close the main set with asmoking version of ``Louisiana Bayou.' DMB would return for a stellar two-song encore of ``So Right' and ``Stay (Wasting Time).'

When it was all said and done, the band had been on stage for nearly three hours. Yet, it felt much shorter than that and the crowd was left wanting even more. Bet that a good portion of these fans would be back on Saturday night for another dose of the Dave Matthews Band.

And, really, who can blame them?