The sun bore down on Dave Matthews as he took the stage of Cricket Wireless Amphitheater early Tuesday evening. The rock star suggested that the “bone-roasting heat” was so severe that it “feels like my bones have a fever.”
Matthews and his nine-piece backing band bested the oppressive temperature during a marathon concert for an audience of more than 15,000. He performed for about three hours not including an intermission.
The Dave Matthews Band rewarded passionate fans and frustrated less dedicated members of the throng at the Bonner Springs venue. Rather than playing all of the hits that made the ensemble one of the most popular groups of the ’90s and ’00s, the set list favored obscure selections and provided a showcase for a notable guest artist.
A jam band with pop instincts, the Dave Matthews Band hasn’t released a studio album since 2012 and last performed in the Kansas City area in 2009.
Concerns that the band’s lack of activity reflected an absence of desire or a lack of inspiration were dispelled on Tuesday. In spite of a few rough patches, the concert was an artistic success.
Matthews opened the show with a pair of solo performances. A melancholy interpretation of Procol Harum's “A Whiter Shade of Pale” and a despairing reading of “Little Red Bird” confirmed his penchant for morose material.
A rendition of the group’s first single “What Would You Say” was the one of the only concessions to casual onlookers during the first set. The 1994 hit helped made the ensemble’s music a default soundtrack at countless fraternity parties and illicit smoking sessions.
An adaptation of “Sweet” was less rewarding. The band resembled a ragtag group of street buskers during the wispy song.
The first portion of the second set was similarly listless. Extended solo statements on “Crush” grew tiresome as the band indulged in jam band noodling. A faithful cover of Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” reinvigorated the concert.
Nicholas Payton, a prominent trumpeter who characterizes the form that made him famous as Black American Music rather than jazz, sat in on three selections. His solo on “The Dreaming Tree” began as a mournful query before resolving itself in a triumphant declaration. Payton’s presence on a slinky version of “Jimi Thing” inspired the most elevated playing of the evening.
By the time Matthews sang “come and dance with me,” the toll the sun had taken hours earlier was cast aside as thousands of celebrants heeded his invitation.