Created in the early ’90s by South African vocalist/guitarist Dave Matthews, the Dave Matthews Band presented a more pop-oriented version of the Grateful Dead crossed with elements of jazz, funk, and the worldbeat explorations of Paul Simon and Sting. Matthews populated the ensemble with several Virginia-based musicians — bassist Stefan Lessard, saxophonist Leroi Moore, violinist Boyd Tinsley, drummer Carter Beauford, and short-lived keyboardist Peter Griesar — and the ensemble built up a strong word-of-mouth buzz by hosting shows the country constantly, with special focus paid to college campuses. Griesar exited the group in March 1993, but the Dave Matthews group moved ahead in his absence, releasing the independent record Remember Two Things later that year and issuing a live EP, Recently, in 1994. After fielding offers from major labels, the ensemble signed with RCA and released the debut effort Under the Table and Dreaming in September 1994. By the following spring, the record had launched the hit single “What Would You Say” and sold over one million copies, thus setting the stage for Dave Matthews’ successful career as both bandleader and solo musician.
A year and a half after the release of Under the Table and Dreaming, the album had sold over four million albums in the U.S. alone, propelled in part by the success of the “Ants Marching” and “Satellite.” The Dave Matthews lineup responded by releasing 1996’s Crash, which entered the charts at number two and rapidly went platinum. The lineup spent the bulk of 1996 giving concerts in support of the eclectic album, which reached multi-platinum stature and spun off five popular singles, which included the Grammy-nominated “Crash into Me.” That same year, Matthews launched an attack on bootleggers in conjunction with the Federal Government, targeting stores that were selling semi-legal discs of live performances. The efforts of Matthews, his band, and his management resulted in an unprecedented crackdown on for-profit bootleggers in early 1997 — with nearly all of the major foreign bootlegging companies placed under arrest by the United States — thereby putting a moratorium on the entire underground industry.
To further combat the bootleggers, Dave Matthews group put forth an official double-disc live album, Live at Red Rocks 8.15.95, in the fall of 1997. It was an unexpected success, debuting at number three on the charts and selling a million albums within the first five months of its release. The live album paved the way for a string of future DMB concert recordings; it also drummed up support for the April 1998 release of Before These Crowded Streets, the group’s most ambitious record to date. Another two-disc live effort, Listener Supported, came one year later, and summer tours kept the ensemble busy as the decade drew to a close.
The new millennium, however, saw the group returning to the studio with producer Glen Ballard to record a fourth studio album, Everyday, which was gave us in February 2001. Although notable for its slick, mainstream-minded style of music — not to mention the presence of electric guitar, which Matthews had never used on previous units — it was overshadowed by rumors of a darker album that had been recorded with Steve Lillywhite in 2000. Although the original album was rejected, the group eventually chose material from those sessions, re-recorded several others, and released the results in July 2002 as Busted Stuff. Its debut single, “Where Are You Going,” fared well on national radio, and the group rounded out 2002 with the release of Live at Folsom Field in November.
Several years after releasing Live at Luther College, a concert record that did not feature his band, Dave Matthews issued his first proper solo record in 2003. The moody and brooding Some Devil was supported by a “Dave Matthews and Friends” tour — the “friends” being Trey Anastasio, Brady Blade, Tony Hall, Ray Paczkowski, and Tim Reynolds — and the album’s chief single, “Gravedigger,” acquired Matthews a Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. Boyd Tinsley also issued a solo album that year, but the Dave Matthews lineup reconvened shortly thereafter, releasing two additional live units (The Central Park Concert, The Gorge) and returning to the road in 2004. The bandmates also joined Bruce Springsteen’s Vote for Change tour toward the end of the year, just as their mail-order-only Live Trax series debuted. In early 2005, they launched a website that featured progress reports on their next record in the form of video footage, diaries, and soundbites. When the flawed Stand Up finally appeared in May, it was the band’s first record of all-new material since 2001’s Everyday. Like its three predecessors, Stand Up dominated the charts, making DMB the only lineup other than U2 and Metallica to score four consecutive number one albums.
Weekend on the Rocks, another live set, came Stand Up at the end of 2005, and a two-disc compilation entitled The Best of What’s Around, Vol. 1 collected studio music and unreleased live recordings one year later. Matthews and Tim Reynolds launched another joint tour in 2007, canvassing Europe and North America in the process. A performance from the latter continent was featured on the record Live at Radio City music Hall, which served as a companion piece to 1999’s Luther College. Meanwhile, the Dave Matthews ensemble put forth their own concert album, Live at Piedmont Park, and started working on new material, although the project was temporarily shelved while pre-production as the group diverted its attention to touring. The musicians returned to the studio the not long after year, but LeRoi Moore unfortunately passed away before the album could be completed. The saxophonist had suffered a serious ATV accident in June and ultimately succumbed to his injuries two months later. Former Béla Fleck saxophonist Jeff Coffin joined in his place, and the lineup heralded his inclusion with the release of Live at the Mile High material Festival, a three-disc set capturing a Colorado performance from that summer. Early the following year, the Dave Matthews ensemble paid tribute to Moore with Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King.
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