Dave Matthews Band
With Macy Gray.
Wednesday night in Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park.
Wednesday night at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo was treated to an exciting double bill of two of contemporary music's most intriguing acts, Macy Gray and the Dave Matthews Band.
Opening the show was the funky and eccentric Gray, who comes off as the inexplicable love child of George Clinton, Sly Stone and Grandmaster Flash. She ran through several tracks from her acclaimed debut in her undeniably odd and yet affecting rasp. And she often peppered her own tunes with borrowed elements from popular funk and rap songs.
In addition to performing older material, Gray also previewed a song from her new album, due in September. As with her biggest hit, "I Try," the new tune is about relationship troubles. But this time she takes a more aggressive approach. The chorus went: "Give me all your loving or I will kill you."
The Matthews Band's two-hour set once again showed how different the group is from other top-selling acts. First of all, its presentation in decidedly low-key. Frontman Matthews wore a purple and red baseball shirt that looked as if it had come off the rack at Abercrombie & Fitch. But this everyman quality is what makes the band seem as if it's not currently the biggest rock act in the world, but simply a bunch of talented misfits that you and your pals happen to like.
The band also displays a strong commitment to using live instruments at a time when most hit records are made using computerized equipment. The Matthews Band, on the other hand, includes a horn player, a bassist, a drummer, a guitarist and even a violinist. Yet the band's broad, often jazz-inflected musicality is kept accessible by its gentle, reassuring grooves.
Another of the band's considerable strengths is Matthews' sometimes hammy, but often moving voice. His mumbly delivery makes it seem as if he's revealing intimate secrets exclusively to you.
This tour comes at a pivotal time for the band, because many fans were put off by the pop sound of its latest album, "Everyday," which was produced by Glen Ballard. The band switched to Ballard after ditching an album that it had started recording with longtime collaborator Steve Lillywhite.
But bootleg copies of these recordings with Lillywhite, dubbed "The Lillywhite Sessions," are circulating on the Internet. And many "Daveheads" prefer the melancholy "Sessions" to the more accessible "Everyday." Perhaps to keep these die-hards happy, the guys played two of the darkest and most pessimistic cuts from "Sessions." "Big Eyed Fish" was an allegorical tale in which both a fish and a monkey die for trying to leave their natural habitats.
And on the other tune, "Bartender," Matthews confessed to becoming obsessed with his own mortality. He sang, "When I was young I never used to think about it . . . but I can't get it out of my mind." These unreleased tunes received some of the night's loudest applause, which is only fitting, because the band still comes across like a best-kept secret.