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MUSIC REVIEW

Dave Matthews starts safe, soars toward end at Garden

By Scott McLennan
Globe Correspondent / November 10, 2010

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Dave Matthews opened the first of his two shows at the TD Garden by informing the crowd that he was feeling lousy. If he didn’t confess, nobody would have suspected, as the Dave Matthews Band played a solid show that surpassed the two-hour mark and covered many chapters of the band’s nearly 20-years-long journey.

With the DMB planning a year off in 2011, perhaps Matthews was feeling a little nostalgic last night, opening with vintage tunes “Proudest Monkey,’’ “Satellite,’’ and “Don’t Drink the Water.’’

The playing wasn’t as frenetic as when the band performed in Mansfield in June, but the DMB did judiciously flesh out the material. Guitarist Tim Reynolds, trumpet player Rashawn Ross, saxophonist Jeff Coffin, bass player Stefan Lessard, drummer Carter Beauford, and violinist Boyd Tinsley rallied around the boss, never pushing too hard, at least at first.

The show flowed well, with the Middle Eastern groove of “Last Stop’’ and mesmerizing syncopations of “Seek Up’’ affording the band room to explore without blasting off into wild improvisations.

But after an hour or so of playing it safe, Matthews and crew did veer off on “Lying in the Hands of God.’’ Coffin and Lessard in particular kicked the energy up, and for the most part the show stayed in high gear.

“Why I Am’’ and “Shake Me Like a Monkey’’ are newer songs that have settled into concert staples. But this victory lap through a city that has supported its work from the start seemed bent on celebrating legacy. Thus “Ants Marching’’ and “#41’’ from the early days were standouts toward the end, and a chance for the DMB to show its core strengths remain intact.

Matthews, sounding healed by concert’s end, did a graceful solo version of “Some Devil’’ and led the band through an extended encore.

Though the DMB has its share of commercial success, its longevity rests in the ability to deliver live, and the band did just that last night, even with an excuse not to.

John Butler Trio opened with a blend of folksy and world music.

Scott McLennan can be reached at smclennan1010@gmail.com

Dave Matthews Band with John Butler Trio
Last night, TD Garden
Repeats tonight