Updated: Jun 16
In what is likely known by many as the first truly great touring season of the new millennium, 2002 boasts a plethora of selections to choose from when revisiting a landmark era for the Dave Matthews Band. After a lengthy spring tour that spanned much of April and May, the band takes June off in anticipation of their new album Busted Stuff and begin summer tour on 7/5 in West Palm Beach, Florida before making their way up the east coast to land at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) for their third 2-night stand, albeit on a Sunday/Monday night, of the tour thus far. At this point in the band’s touring career, SPAC had not yet reached its legendary status as a destination venue with guaranteed yearly multi-night stops on tour in mid-late July. This was only the 10th show played at the venue, out of the now 54 shows played there (55 and 56 in mid-July 2023). The band was arguably only a few years into their heavy summer touring regimen that they still maintain now 20 years on. Add to that; the band’s final, full development of many, if not all, of the songs that were leaked as the Lillywhite Sessions and previously road-tested, albeit in various forms of unpolished ideas, during the summer 2000 tour were now squarely residing in the catalog as selections from Busted Stuff. All of this makes the 2002 summer tour a vaunted landing place for fans old and new that make their journey through the band’s history upon relistening to older shows. Lets get to the show.
Opening the second night in upstate New York, we find Pig. It's always a treat when this tune, deeply rooted in its role as the inspirational anchor to the band's most acclaimed and beloved record, Before These Crowded Streets, leads off a show. Its evident early that Boyd is on his A-game on this night, as heard in the opening violin flutter that drops into Dave's introductory vocals. Dave's voice is in mid-summer peak tour form. From here we move on to Warehouse, one of the defining DMB tracks that lends its name to the fanbase. With this stop-time intro, this version contains a near perfect tempo for this tune, and the band seems poised to stay locked in for the remainder of the night.
Grey Street makes its appearance as the first selection from Busted Stuff to be featured at this show. With the new album released just two weeks prior, the revamped and road-tested song, boasting newly solidified lyrics, has been a touring staple for a few years up to this point, but is only now taking center stage on tour as the new record's shining gem. Carter's pinging ride-bell in the chorus is the real musical chef's kiss for me each time through this song. As Dave belts the "breaks her hear" lyrical refrain, Roi comes in with his first major contribution to the night before Dave reaches for one last high vocal note to lead into the instrumental section.
Not on the scripted playlist, Proudest Monkey makes its first ever appearance at SPAC next. Since it's debut in late-1994, the venue had been played 7 times prior to this song finally showing its colors, and they made it worth the wait in what might end up being the early highlight of the show. Satellite comes next and is an example of perfect execution to a tried and true song that lets the crowd get lost in the beauty of Dave's early works. After a run of songs exhibiting the band's impeccable pairing of songwriting and arrangement, the show gets a deserved adrenaline boost with Don't Drink The Water. The classic from Before These Crowded Streets has never sounded so polished, and Dave's vocal chops remain unmatched in this typical set piece to pump the crowd full of energy as the sun sets, giving way to the stage to shine for the rest of the evening.
As the fuel burns off from the preceding rock-heavy offering, Dave mentions some special guests that are in attendance this evening, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, of Ben & Jerry's ice cream fame. He notes their presence as he rambles on about their confectionary collaboration, called "One Sweet Whirled", while commenting on its effort to raise awareness of the growing climate struggles, before starting into the instrumental intro to the pint's namesake, One Sweet World. This song is a consistent clinic in modern drumming from Carter, directing the movement of verse and chorus and the intricacies of the transitions in and out of each; in this, one of the older offerings on the night's setlist.
Coming out of the Remember Two Things staple we are treated to a lesser revered, but much more surprising, If I Had It All, the first tune to represent 2001's Everyday. Played only six times on this tour, Dave reaches back and whales the final "If I were GIANT SIZED" lyric coming out of the last trip through the chorus that signifies, up to this point of the night, the most throaty gusto coming from his vocal instrument.
As previously mentioned, this show sits squarely in the middle of a truly unique point in the band’s live catalog history, as they played this next song almost nightly (due in large part to its appearance on Busted Stuff as an instrumental track). Welcome Kit Kat Jam. The difference being that each night’s rendition of the pent-up jam featured unique lyrics throughout, in the theme of Dave’s various dreamscapes, singing of a different cerebral experience each time through. This is done 15 times throughout the summer tour of 2002 and then subsequently in 2003 and 2004, but only over a couple-week span in each of the following respective years, before returning once more for the same kind of treatment only 4 times in 2010. This song is a representation of Dave’s creative writing spark and the passion that can emerge out of nowhere, and is a testament to his writing abilities at the time, with his propensity to ad-lib night in and night out. This particular version of the tune focuses on Dave’s satirical commentary on plasticine idols and gods as the world longs to be saved from its own plastic creations.
If the creativity surrounding this era of Kit Kat Jams shows one end of the spectrum in Dave’s writing abilities, lets then get a firm grasp of the other side of the coin. Representing the midway point of the night, the band launches into the singular, most emotion-inducing written piece that Dave has even penned. Enter #41. A song that hasn’t changed much over the years, aside from its wont to be extended by special guest appearances in the instrumental section; and honestly should never be touched in the way of lyrical changes. It hits, and hits deep, every single time. After the song section Butch sends us into the instrumental portion before Roi slides into the auditory frame with his soulful mellow solo section. The momentum builds as Boyd joins in and the energy rises to its peak with Carter’s 4-stroke fills before the moment falls back down into Boyd’s lap for the outro jam; Dave joining in with the "Everyday" lyrical element. The nonverbal queue for the crowd’s participation begins as Dave enters the improvisational vocal refrain before the crowd echoes “Everyday” as Carter slows the tempo down with the standard half-time rhythm while Boyd plays us out. You are hard-pressed to find moments that carry much more weight than these.
Unfortunately this era of the band’s history is riddled with questionable offerings, none more so than I Did It, which we have to sit through after such a beautiful performance. The lead single off of Everyday never leaves a good taste in the mouths of the band’s loyalists, but this is the price of mainstream radio stardom for a band that was erroneously tasked to change creative directions at the turn of the century. We’re not here long though, as this is the shortest tune played on this night. Next we turn to the dark underbelly of Dave’s stylings with Raven. The fourth and final time played on this tour, even though the track calls Busted Stuff its studio home. Despite its beautiful melody and instrumental bridge element, this is a remarkably intense song. A juxtaposition on itself in that regard, but it fits this setlist nicely.
We move onto to another selection that bears the rubber stamping of “2002" with Loving Wings. Yet another song that lends itself to making the lore of 2002 so mighty, Loving Wings debuted early in 2002 but took time to develop between all members of the band until it became a mainstay throughout the year as the summer tour moved on. It shows up more often than you’d think, for an “unreleased” track; making an appearance at least once annually after its monstrous inception year. It serves this setlist well as a way to clear the air and lift the heaviness of the Raven that precedes it. Dave’s acoustic trills serve as the backbone to this beautiful little breezy jaunt through the park. We stay in the vein of new material, and go back to Busted Stuff to start the closing run of the show with the first single off the record, Where Are You Going, as one of the only two newly-written originals on the album that wasn’t a part of the Lillywhite Sessions. Along with Grey Street, this song exists as one the more heavily played tracks in 2002 while touring the new album.
The band starts to ramp up the energy to close out the show by giving way to another Everyday track with So Right. Dave's seldom-used electric guitar opens the song with Carter’s driving, open hi-hat pushing the pace on this higher-octane rocker. This remains one of the more palatable tunes from the record. Boyd’s triplet violin strokes add to the driving element in the chorus, and after the last time through, Roi comes out of the lower end with his sax into the high register for a solo section that always leads to the band’s unison approach on Boyd’s chorus triplet melody, which brings the heat and gets the crowd jumping.
The abrupt stop out of So Right leads to some brief words of gratitude to the crowd from Dave before a direct intro, sans Carter’s standalone downbeats, into the band’s jam stalwart, Ants Marching. Roi takes flight on his intro solo section and the crowd is primed for the set closer to deliver as it so often does. This is classic DMB in the truest sense of the term, and while it gets played often, it should never be taken for granted, even on this night. These are the sequences that defined the band’s sound, the rousing romp that romanticized the band for an entire generation. Dave hits the high octave in the last chorus and Boyd begins to shred his bow until there’s nothing but timber and twine faltering to resist as they are strown about wildly. Roi joins in, there is no holding back now, and the crowd is left craving more as Carter comes out of the saddle for his signature 4-stroke passes between toms and cymbals as Dave brings it to a close with his most exuberant charge, “Lights Down, you up and Die!”
As if the party had only just begun, the outer-body affair would be compounded with the real treat of the night. Enter, the E1 BUST OUT. On this night, that would take the form of this classic tune that has become an anthem to so many, with an acoustic rendition of Dancing Nancies, not played in over a year (and only played the one time in the previous year; 5/11/01), and another first for the newfound destination venue in upstate New York. The song had not seen this kind of treatment in an encore, as a Dave solo, since 8/3/95. This was not on the written setlist that night, and instead replaced Gravedigger in the E1 position.
Not to be ignored, the crowd clamored for more. As Dave teased Everyday, the printed encore closer, chants of “TWO STEP [clap clap] TWO STEP [clap clap]” resonated throughout the landmark amphitheater. The audible was called, and Dave begins the haunting acoustic line associated with the crowd’s request, Stefan in tow with the bending bassline. It would indeed be Two Step to close the night. The intro verse leads to the building cymbals from Carter, and Roi’s bottomed-out baritone sends the new encore closer into the aural stratosphere. The rolling rhythm section sets the pace. Dave’s voice is up for the effort, with the song’s trademarked violin plucking from Boyd carrying the chorus outros, landing at Butch’s feet after the last time through. These are the moments we are left to admire in an era long since past, Butch’s impact on the band’s dynamic is most evident at this very moment. The tempo turns to bring a transcendental theme into focus as Dave takes his turn to offer solace in his acoustic guitar. This is now an intimate musical experience, with fans falling into the comforts of the earthen night. Not soon after the audience is entranced, Carter begins his rolling snare section and the outro jam ensues. The big finish is nye upon us, and Carter’s 4-stroke outro is paired with the acoustic melody on the upbeats from Dave as the song plays out to Roi’s succinct eighth-note stoppage. Dave sends his love to the fans and the amphitheater is sent off into the night with a nod to the fans, a performance at their request, that they won’t soon forget.
A balanced show in its most basic statistical form, Night 2 at SPAC offered everything from venue debuts and bust-outs of tried and true material, to live offerings of newly released Busted Stuff tracks that many in attendance would hear for the first time. The spirit of 2002 lives on with this show through and through, as if to bring a renewed fervor for an era now 20+ years gone. The spoils of such a tour, in such a time, with such a talented and beloved band on the immediate backside of such a momentous moment in their collective history can not be overstated. May we always listen with great awareness of what we have all been witness to over the course of these many trips around the sun. Long live the Matthews Band.
LINK TO THE REMASTER: