The Dreaming Tree Has Died: Lamenting a Formerly Great Band
It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since the Dave Matthews Band released, in my opinion, their masterpiece, Before These Crowded Streets. As one who worshiped 1996’s Crash, I didn’t think anything could top it. I was wrong. BTCS captures what the band’s trademark jam/improvisation style and highlighted each member’s talent. Just listen to Carter Beaufort’s drums on “Rapunzel” or Boyd Tinsley’s violin on “The Stone.” What about Leroi Moore’s sax on “The Last Stop” or “Stay (Wasting Time)?" This was DMB at their best. Four-minute diddies are for radio bands. DMB are not a radio band, which is what made this album so great…radio tried to turn “Crush” into a hit by trimming the damn thing in half…all it did was strip it of its groove. Eleven tracks (though, at 40 seconds, “Pantala Naga Pampa” hardly counts), seventy minutes—in an era where singles are championed, it stressed the album as a whole…which explains the album’s many “interludes” (some of which are so badass, I wish there were lyrics and an extra six minutes to them).
Unfortunately, the dreaming tree has died. BTCS songs, by and large, have fallen out of the DMB’s touring repertoire, in favor of fan (and by fan, I mean the drunk a-hole and his slutty girlfriend next to me) favorites “Where Are You Going” and (please shoot me in the face) “All Along the Watchtower.” Instead of starting a concert with the fury of “The Last Stop”, they opt for the phone-it-in “Ants Marching” or “Grey Street.” I long for the simpler days…I saw DMB in Lexington, Kentucky on November 20, 1998. 13 songs played over 2+ hours, the bulk coming from BTCS…the definition of an ideal DMB concert. Before everyone from Delta Tau Delta got a copy of The Lillywhite Sessions and thought they were insiders…before Glen Ballard stuck an electric in Dave’s hands…before Dave traded songs about getting high for government manifestos (please leave political songs to Neil Young, Bono, or Bright Eyes)…Before These Crowded Streets found a way to capture everything that was right about a once great band. Looking back ten years, sad to say, this was the last stop.
Kevin Smith Clark