The solo acoustic gig, billed as a celebration of the new Dave Matthews Band album, was an invite-only affair for Spotify Premium users.
It certainly wasn’t a typical midweek gig in an otherwise quiet Columbia City. Fans wrapped around Columbia City Theater on Wednesday night wore their excitement on their faces. As much diverse local talent can be found in the neighborhood’s cozy clubs, it’s not often megastars more accustomed to jam-rocking 20,000-person amphitheaters drop by the low-key neighborhood hangouts for an under-the-radar gig.
“Dave Matthews?!” exclaimed one passer-by who inquired about the unusually long line. “[Expletive].”
The free, invite-only gig was a one-off Spotify-backed affair for 200 lucky fans (and their even luckier plus-ones) who are paid Spotify Premium users. Notices posted inside informed fans that the show was being filmed, though it was unclear what the streaming giant plans to do with the footage.
Despite being a corporate-sponsored bash, the solo acoustic show was anything but buttoned up, the small-room intimacy and Matthews’ playful stage presence allowing for more immediate interaction than, say, his massive full-band shows at the Gorge. As a freewheeling Matthews vacillated between growling power-strummers and tender acoustic songs, the ardent mixed-age crowd went from hushed to hollerin’, flooding their Instagram stories all the while.
Most Read Entertainment Stories
- Music of Remembrance 'To Life!' concert honors 4 musicians who survived the Holocaust
- A monster movie mash: Looking back at 'Dracula,' 'Frankenstein' and other films of the '30s and '40s
- Seattle's Museum of Pop Culture reopens 'Body of Work: Tattoo Culture' exhibition
- A Bainbridge Island children’s book author bought Liberty Bay Books. One month later, the pandemic hit
- Pearl Jam at 30: The enduring power of Seattle music's cool uncles
“I’d kinda like to say, ‘I’d like to thank my friends at Spotify,’ like they told me to say it,” Matthews joked after opening with a stripped-down, but forceful “Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin)” shedding the album version’s U2 grandiosity. As his ode to fatherhood roared to a close, the crowd erupted, still getting accustomed to seeing one of America’s top concert draws in such humble digs.
While the show was billed as a celebration of Dave Matthews Band’s new album, “Come Tomorrow” — released in June just weeks after longtime violinist Boyd Tinsley was fired after sexual harassment allegations from a Seattle musician — Matthews drew more heavily from his back catalog during the nearly 90-minute set. Fan favorites like an emotionally toiling “Grey Street” and a somber “Gravedigger,” which raised to a barrel-chested squall, were a few of the pre-encore highlights.
“I feel very self-indulgent, playing whatever the hell I want this evening,” he quipped after a tender cover of Hazel Dickens’ “Pretty Bird” laced with his delicate falsetto. “I hope it works out for all of us.”
Indeed it did. Throughout the evening, the adopted Seattleite was in storyteller mode, with his off-the-cuff banter feeling more like a guitar-strapped BSing session in his backyard gazebo than arena-grade small talk, whether recalling an awkward moment at another corporate gig or rambling about walking into spider webs in Ballard. We half expected him to offer us boozy lemonade while joking about his perspiration after a sizzling “Warehouse,” one of a few gems he pulled from DMB’s 1994 debut “Under the Table and Dreaming” — a record that set his course as one of the best-selling dorm room poster artists of all time (probably).
While Matthews’ full-band amphitheater shows lean on extrapolated jams, his solo set naturally flashed his singer-songwriter side, with his husky voice carrying darker classics like a stormy run through “Don’t Drink the Water,” which sounded no less brooding. After briefly popping off the stage, Matthews launched into a three-song encore capped with a zippy “Ants Marching” — the biggest singalong of the night, with Matthews’ heated voice rising with his fans’.
It’s not often fans get to catch a star of Matthews’ size in such a small, informal setting; a fact not lost on the grinning crowd spilling back out onto the sleepy Columbia City streets.
“What just happened?” exclaimed one fan as the lights came on.
Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin)
Rye Whiskey – Tex Ritter cover
Do You Remember
So Damn Lucky
Pretty Bird – Hazel Dickens cover
Worried Man Blues – Woody Guthrie cover
Here On Out
Funny the Way That it Is
Grace is Gone
Don’t Drink the Water
Little Red Bird