Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Concert Setlists (The Dave Matthews Band Anomaly)

The 2019 Sean’s Summer Concert Series appears to have ended. While I’ll probably see some local kids concerts like Rocknoceros and local adult concerts like Herr Metal, I doubt that I’ll see another national touring artist this summer. (Unless MGM National Harbor wants to start selling Aerosmith tickets at a reasonable price!) Over the last two months, I saw Sammy Hagar and the Circle (with opener Night Ranger), Smash Mouth at Celebrate Fairfax, Dave Matthews Band, and then Hootie and the Blowfish and Barenaked Ladies over the weekend. (There may be a separate blog post about this concert in the near future.) All of these shows got me thinking. At every concert, you expect to hear your favorite songs by these artists. From the list above, you know and expect that Sammy Hagar would play "I Can’t Drive 55" and some songs when he was with Van Halen, Smash Mouth would play "All Star" and "I’m a Believer," Hootie and the Blowfish would play "Hold My Hand" and "Only Wanna Be With You," and Barenaked Ladies would play "One Week" and "If I Had A Million Dollars." If you didn’t see these bands play these songs, you would probably be upset since these songs are arguably these artists biggest hits. It’s also why I was disappointed seeing Counting Crows nearly a decade ago as the group played some slow, boring version of "Mr. Jones." On one hand, I get it. These bands have to be tired of playing the same song nearly the same way at every single performance. On the other hand, bands have to know that fans want to hear them play these hits.

This brings me to Dave Matthews Band. They truly are an anomaly here. Despite having huge success with nearly all of their albums going to #1, the band never really had major success based on singles. Their most well-known song is probably "Ants Marching," but I'm not sure if even a handful of songs made the top 40 of Billboard's pop charts. Maybe this “lack of success” gives the band the freedom to play what they want at every show. For example, the first time I heard of the band was from the song “What Would You Say” when I saw the video on MTV in 1994 or so. In the five times I saw them perform, they only played this song once.

Take any major band/artist and have them play a 2.5 hour set. Would you be disappointed if you didn’t hear some of their most popular songs? The answer is probably yes. Let's take some of the biggest performers with deep catalogs who are currently on tour. Billy Joel has played 13 shows in 2019 and played "Piano Man," "Allentown," "We Didn't Start the Fire," and 12 other songs at every one of these shows. Paul McCartney, who probably has the deepest catalog of anyone, has also played the same group of songs such as "Live and Let Die" and "A Hard Day's Night" at every show. Now there is some variety about each set list, but if you’re seeing Billy Joel or Paul McCartney this year, it seems like you’re definitely going to hear certain songs (like he ones I just mentioned) at every concert on this tour.

Back to Dave Matthews Band, they have played 51 shows in 2019 as of the date I wrote this blog post. The song they have played the most is called "Do You Remember" (played at 36 shows) which I do not remember. It’s one of the songs from their 2018 album. They have played over 100 different songs at their 51 concerts. That’s really impressive. And my guess is that their fans have been satisfied when the show ends.

Is there any other current musician/group who does this and can pull this off?


Amy said...

Indigo Girls might be close. They always do Galileo and Closer to Fine but generally mix up the rest of their set list - differs from city to city.

Sean said...

You had me except for Galileo and Closer to Fine since they always do these songs!