Review: Dave Matthews Band headlines festival in A.C.

Huge banners welcome concertgoers Saturday to Bader Field in Atlantic City for the Dave Matthews Band Caravan festival. (Ed Hille / Staff Photographer)
Huge banners welcome concertgoers Saturday to Bader Field in Atlantic City for the Dave Matthews Band Caravan festival. (Ed Hille / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 25, 2011

If Dave Matthews was irked by the Flaming Lips' upstaging him at his own festival - the Dave Matthews Band Caravan, which debuted Friday with 14 bands at Bader Field in Atlantic City - the amiable jam band kingpin sure didn't show it.

But then, Matthews, who led the DMB through a two-hour headlining set highlighted by a solo take on Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale," had plenty of other reasons to be pleased.

For starters, Bader Field proved to be an ideal venue for the three day Caravan, scheduled to wind up on Sunday with a full slate of bands, including Philadelphia acts Amos Lee and Dr. Dog.

The orange orb setting over Matthews' left shoulder as he took the stage with "Don't Drink The Water" provided the opening day's picture postcard moment.

But the doings were sunny all day at the spacious site, where Caravan boasted the most impressive food options (love that pulled pork sandwich from Conshohocken's Blackfish) than any festival I've been to this side of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage fest.

At the Boardwalk stage, Philadelphia blues-and-hip-hop guitarist G. Love fondly recalled working as a trashman (or "litter critter") in Avalon.

He was followed by pastoral soul man Ray Lamontagne, whose music wanly recalled Joe Cocker and Neil Young.

The intriguing action was on the side stages. G. Lovers missed Mariachi el Bronx, the alter egos of Los Angeles punk band The Bronx, who made Mexican-American outlaw music that referenced Jesus Christ and Pablo Escobar. Meanwhile, sharp Seattleans The Head & the Heart proffered earnestly engaging folk-pop in the vein of the Avett Brothers.

Onto The Flaming Lips: Wayne Coyne's Oklahoma outfit offered interstellar Americana, alternating songs from Pink Floyd's The Dark Side Of The Moon with tunes from The Wizard Of Oz.

"Us and Them," meet "If I Only Had A Brain."

The fanciful concept paid off musically.

Coyne pondered existential questions and tossed giant balloons filled with "Dave Matthews' money" while flanked by audience members dressed as the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and Dorothy.

What was the DMB to do to follow that?

What it always does: Play a lengthy set marked by admirable musicianship that mixed standouts like soul-searcher "Funny The Way It Is" with knotty numbers that caused head scratching over how a band that tends toward mildly hippie-ish smooth jazz built such a massive following.

Not that Dave-devotees were complaining. Twitter was atwitter over the first performance of "Captain" since 2004, and a handful of other points of interest got non-believers attention, including a snippet of Prince's "Sexy MF," and a cover of Morphine's "Buena." Plus that tender "Whiter Shade Of Pale" in which Matthews held the crowd rapt with just his voice and guitar.


Contact music critic Dan DeLuca at 215-854-5628, ddeluca@phillynews.com, or @delucadan on Twitter. Read his blog, "In the Mix," at www.philly.com/inthemix

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