Dave Matthews Band performs a live concert in Oslo, Norway in March of 2019.
Photo by Gonzales Photo / Terje Dokken
South Floridians know to expect long, hot summers, but at least they have a recurring event that can help take their minds off the heat.
The Dave Matthews Band makes its annual pilgrimage to the iTHINK Financial Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach on Aug. 20 and 21. The two shows were scheduled for late May, but had to be rescheduled when COVID-19 surfaced within the band.
“I think the earliest show I saw them play there was in 2002, and I’ve been going to see them ever since,” says 57-year-old fan and North Palm Beach resident Michael Myers.
“Dave Matthews Band is more than music to me,” Myers says. “His shows have some of the most positive messages and positive people attending. And his lyrics speak volumes. They’ve helped me through some challenging and very difficult parts of my life over the years.”
A live juggernaut since forming in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1991, the band’s namesake lead singer and guitarist was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and moved to the United States with his family at age 2. Matthews was working as a bartender in Charlottesville when he crossed paths with jazz musicians LeRoi Moore (saxophone) and Carter Beauford, who’s still the group’s drummer. A musical foundation was formed.
Bassist Stefan Lessard, also still with the band, joined as a teenager, and violinist Boyd Tinsley rounded out the original five-piece recording lineup in 1992. Two years later, that lineup released the group’s debut studio album, “Under the Table and Dreaming,” which spawned hits “What Would You Say,” “Satellite” and “Ants Marching,” all concert favorites.
Subsequent releases “Crash” (1996) and “Before These Crowded Streets” (1998) resulted in multiple Grammy Awards, and the quintet’s popularity as a must-see pop-meets-jam band increased through 2008 before tragedy struck. Moore, injured in an ATV accident that June but expected to recover, died from complications two months later.
His replacement was Jeff Coffin, part of jazz/fusion act Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, with whom he played through 2010. The 57-year-old saxophonist remains a DMB member, leads a self-titled band and is an in-demand session musician.
“We were thankful these shows were going to be in May because we usually tour Florida in July, when it’s even hotter down there,” Coffin says. “Then COVID reared its ugly little head. Such are the times. But that amphitheater is a special place. People seem to love us there. I’ve been with the group for 14 years now, and we’ve played there every year we’ve toured.”
With his shaved head, commanding stage presence and ability to play all varieties of saxophone (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone), as well as other wind instruments, Coffin is a fan favorite and completes an integral horn section with trumpeter/vocalist Rashawn Ross. Both are formidable soloists, as are guitarist Tim Reynolds and keyboardist/vocalist Buddy Strong. The band’s newest addition, Strong joined in 2018, the year DMB released its most recent studio album, “Come Tomorrow.”
Yet Matthews and his rhythm section remain the band’s nucleus. As well as being a Grammy-winning singer and songwriter, Matthews’ intricate acoustic guitar playing sets the tone for most of his compositions. Beauford is a scene-stealing drummer with the advanced technique of jazz influences from Buddy Rich to Billy Cobham, and Lessard’s bottom-heavy bass playing provides the glue that unites them.
The results often involve elements of pop, folk, soul, rock, jazz, funk, R&B and ample on-the-fly improvisation, especially during extended live jams.
The Dave Matthews Band performs at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 20 and 21 at iTHINK Financial Amphitheatre, 601-7 Sansburys Way, West Palm Beach. Single-night tickets start at $42, with two-day lawn passes also available. For further information, visit ithink.amphitheatrewestpalm.org.