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Sex and Violins

Dave Matthews Band
John Falls

Size Five: The Dave Matthews Band

The Dave Matthews Band proves you don't have to be in Kansas to like violins.

By Bernice Yeung

With its funk-rock roots, use of jazz instrumentals and Southern flavor, the Dave Matthews Band swings from genre to genre, causing confusion among radio station programmers who have difficulty categorizing the band.

The Virginians have long been considered a college-radio band, a designation that accurately characterized their following early on when they played mostly frat parties. But its hard to imagine such stand-out musicians performing amid discarded beer cans; they certainly deserve a real stage.

The marquee may have announced the Dave Matthews Band in concert at the Shoreline, but the group's July 6 performance was truly violinist Boyd Tinsley's showcase. Stomping his feet, mouth wide open and face peering heavenward, the classically trained violinist commanded the stage with his contagiously exuberant and maniacally brilliant playing.

Throughout the show, saxist/flautist Leroi Moore contributed stylish solos, drummer Carter Beauford banged out dynamic rhythms and Stefan Lessard offered solid, jumping basslines. But it was Tinsley's combination of fast fiddling and or romantic classical playing that had the audience roaring. Even guitarist/frontman Dave Matthews' charming between-song conversation, clever rhythmic guitar playing and irresistible singing couldn't swing the spotlight away from Tinsley.

The volume on Tinsley's violin was set appropriately high, and when he stepped forward for his first solo on the band's sixth song, "Jimi Thing," Tinsley became the music he played, flowing like fluid, dancing like rhythm. The audience responded with cheers.

But it was during the band's rendition of "Dancing Nancies" that Tinsley revealed his ability to completely enrapture an audience--and his bandmates. Making his way to center stage during his solo, Tinsley, with his eyes closed, wrenched ecstatic sounds from his instrument. In the process, his impassioned playing shredded the strands of his bow into individual wisps of horse hair.

Matthews could only watch incredulously and respectfully as Tinsley created his musical magic. A few bars later, Matthews broke some guitar strings himself. In fact, Tinsley and Matthew's zealousness led to at least two more broken bows and snapped strings.

These kinds of genuine display of enthusiasm that made the Dave Matthews Band's Shoreline show one of the best at the venue in a long time. I'm sure that a majority of the crowd paid $25 to hear "Crash," but the band refused to let the audience leave the show simply having heard polished radio hits. Matthews and Co. insisted on mixing up the lyrics, playing improvised solos and variations of the melody on their big hit. The Dave Matthews Band played music, not songs.

And when listening to a recording of the band's music, it is easy to overlook Matthews, Tinsley, Beauford, Moore and Lessard's talent. Beauford could almost rival Neil Peart in skill and certainly; Moore's soprano sax playing would make Kenny G. sound like a sixth-grader in beginning concert band.

Their music is best when they are able to demonstrate their cohesiveness playing live. And though they stand in front of thousands, they establish a sense of intimacy.

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