Dave Matthews Band Caravan Live at Lakeside Day 3 of 3, 7/10/11 Chicago

Dave Matthews Band Caravan Live at Lakeside Day 3 of 3, 7/10/11 Chicago

Day three of the Dave Matthews Caravan saw what I believe to be the lightest crowds of all three days but the strongest overall day of music.  The lighter crowds allowed concertgoers to see more acts and was my favorite day of the three.  I was joined on Sunday by friend and walking music encyclopedia Greg Alexander… and as he did last week after we saw Loretta Lynn, he will occasionally add his two cents as well. Onto the music…

Photo taken by Jim Ryan

Jeff Coffin & the Mu’tet – For the third day in a row, the first act that I saw ended up being one of the best I’d see all day.  In 2008, Jeff Coffin added to his duties as longtime member of Bela Fleck’s vaunted Flecktones (since 1997) when he became a touring member of the Dave Matthews Band.  On Sunday, Coffin’s band started off my day with a set of jazz from five very technically proficient and well travelled musicians:  Coffin on sax, Jeff Sipe on drums (has also played with Trey Anastasio, Susan Tedeschi, Phil Lesh and more), Felix Pastorius on bass, Bill Fanning on trumpet (has performed with Bela Fleck, Glenn Frye and more) and Mike Seal on guitar.  Set opener “A Half sleep” gave everyone an immediate sense of just how good the other musicians onstage were as each member got their chance for a solo during this nearly fifteen minute jam session.  Many in attendance were there early strictly to see a Dave Matthews Band member up close but no doubt left impressed not only by Coffin (who at one point played two saxophones at the same time) but by his bandmates as well.

The Wailers – As I left “The Slip” stage and headed for the “Southworks” stage, I couldn’t help but wonder how many, if any, original or longtime members of Bob Marley & The Wailers were actually part of The Wailers lineup that I was about to see.  From what I can tell, that answer is exactly one person:  Aston Barrett (who started performing with Marley around 197o).  It appears there is also a version of The Wailers out there featuring other former members of the often rotating Marley lead lineups going by The Original Wailers.  It’s a complicated history to sort out (wikipedia needs a timeline to do it… and it’s still confusing).  Regardless, the band performing on Sunday was fronted by Koolant Brown on vocals and sounded pretty good.  I didn’t catch the entire set but I did hear The Wailers’ take on Marley classics like “Stir it Up,” “Three Little Birds,” “Could You be Loved,” “I Shot the Sheriff,” and “One Love.”  I also didn’t get close enough to tell for sure but I’m fairly certain I didn’t hear any steel drum… and that was a bit disappointing for a live reggae performance.  Nevertheless, the many fans in attendance who could care less about the lineup had no problem finding a groove or catching a buzz to The Wailers.

Photo taken by Jim Ryan

The Jayhawks – The Jayhawks, who performed last week at the Taste of the Chicago, brought their brand of rockin’ country to the “Lakeside” stage on Sunday.  Leaning more on their country side during this set (as opposed to The Taste which featured more rocking fare), the band worked in hits like “Blue” and “I’d Run Away” along with a few new tracks.  Bucking the usual reunion trend, The Jayhawks actually have a new album coming out in September entitled Mockingbird Time… their first since 2003 and first since 1995 to feature guitarist Mark Olson.  From it they featured the poppy “She Walks in so Many Ways” and the decidedly more alt-country “Black-Eyed Susan.”  Gary Louris’s guitar solo in the latter was one of the highlights of the portion of the set that I saw and continues to build my excitement in anticipation of the new album every time I hear it.  While I enjoyed last week’s set at The Taste more, The Jayhawks were once again very good… It’s nice to have them back.

Photo taken by Jim Ryan

Emmylou Harris – Michael Franti and Dave Matthews looked on from the side of the stage as a true legend played on Sunday afternoon.  At sixty four years of age, Emmylou Harris looked and sounded great as she performed to a surprisingly massive crowd on Sunday (word clearly spread quick that she was introduced onstage by Matthews… though he never did join her to perform, which many in the crowd were clearly anticipating).  Joined by five musicians (on instrumentation like guitars, keyboards, drums, bass, mandolin, violin and accordion), Harris (touring in support of April’s Hard Bargain), mixed songs/character studies from that album as well as originals and covers from her nearly forty years worth of recordings.  After making light of her audience’s young age, Harris made sure to educate them on the impact her mentor Gram Parsons had, not only on her but music in general, when she performed a rousing cover of his “Wheels.” GREG’S TWO CENTS: “Sharon Jones and Emmylou Harris prove that classic ladies never go out of style.”

Photo taken by Jim Ryan

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – I’ve heard so much in the past year about The Dap Kings’ electrifying live show that I made the choice to skip a performance by Gomez and stay put at the “Slip Stage” to catch Sharon Jones.  This choice was the right one.  Jones led an eight piece band through a set that melded soul, gospel, funk and rock reminiscent of the legendary live shows of James Brown.  Everything I had heard is 100% true:  The Dap Kings are as tight a band as there is going right now and midway through Sunday’s soaring heat, their live act was like a much needed shot of adrenaline.  At 58, Sharon Jones was one of the more compelling frontmen or women that I saw all weekend and I still have a hard time believing that her first album with The Dap Kings came out in 2002 and not 1962.  GREG’S TWO CENTS: “The Dap Kings keep cool alive.  They come from an old school style of playing:  tight and with corners.”

The Flaming Lips perform Dark Side of the Moon - I saw The Flaming Lips earlier this week at the Aragon Ballroom where they performed The Soft Bulletin in its entirety and eventually encored with their version of “Brain Damage.”  Therefore, I thought I was prepared for what I was about to see.  I wasn’t.  Maybe frequent Dave Matthews Band collaborator Tim Reynolds (who watched from the side of the stage) thought he was ready.  He wasn’t.  Nobody was.

Photo taken by Jim Ryan

There is no band in the United States insane enough or better suited to attempt to perform a Pink Floyd album in its entirety than The Flaming Lips.  The amount of patience and practice necessary to figure out how to perform an album like Dark Side has to be staggering.  The attention to detail, research and experimentation necessary to figure out how to present some of the intricate textures and sound effects on that album is equally mind boggling.  That the band members chose to up the degree of difficulty by adding several numbers from “The Wizard of Oz” soundtrack (as a nod to the “Dark Side of the Rainbow” theory and those who swear by listening to Dark Side of the Moon while watching “The Wizard of Oz“) was also astounding.

Lips frontman/circus ringleader, Wayne Coyne called Dark Side ”A seminal, gargantuan, omnipresent Pink Floyd album.”  Well said.

Photo taken by Jim Ryan

The Lips began their set, in what has become their signature fashion, as Coyne entered a giant plastic ball that he referred to as his “space bubble” and used it to roll/crowd surf over those in the crowd.  From there, it was on to “Speak to Me/Breathe” which only slightly prepared me for the aural and visual frenzy that the band was about to create as they used iPhones, blackberrys and a myriad other instruments to bring to life the sonic drape of sound and effects that is “On the Run.”  It was mindblowing to watch the band members as they watched one another for the many cues they’d need to pull this song off together.  I still have a hard time believing what I saw.  Onstage were hordes of dancing girls (dressed as Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz”) and guys (dressed as The Cowardly Lion and other characters from the movie) not to mention the psychadelic images and videos the band chose to compliment the sounds they were crafting.  All of this as machines sprayed wave upon wave of fog and confetti so thick it was hard to see the stage at times.

Photo taken by Jim Ryan

As usual, the band also floated out dozens of gigantic balloons into the crowd.  Sunday they took that a step further during “Money” by pushing out balloons filled with what Coyne insists was $10,000 dropped off personally by Dave Matthews earlier in the afternoon.  I watched as the guy in front of me popped a balloon and caught a $5 bill while a girl dancing onstage caught, and promptly stuffed into her bra, what appeared to be a $50 bill.  So I can assure you the money was real and managed to put on full display amongst the audience the very definition of the word greed… appropriate for the song being performed onstage.  The strong northerly wind quickly pushed these balloons away from the crowd at the “Lakeside” stage and, as Coyne looked on (clearly very amused), I couldn’t help but wonder if any ended up in Lake Michigan.

Like Thursday, the band again finished the show with “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse” only this time there was no encore.  There was no way for The Flaming Lips (or headliners the Dave Matthews Band for that matter) to top what had just been performed.

As rain began to fall over the crowd (gathered on the once highly polluted grounds of a former steel mill) listening intently to a recreation of Dark Side of the Moon, I could only laugh at how appropriate it would be if it was acid rain.

GREG’S TWO CENTS:  ”My favorite things all in one place:  loud psychadelia, confetti and sexy girls dressed like Dorothy… What more can you ask for from a rock n’ roll show?  Experimental theater at its finest.”

Dave Matthews Band – Dave and company capped off The Caravan festival with their longest set of the night and saw Dave at his chattiest of the three days.  The Lips finished up their incredible set at 7pm and Dave gave fans plenty of time to let it soak in, not taking the stage until 7:45pm.  DMB finished up a version of “Bartender” with a bit of “If I Only Had a Brain” from the “Wizard of Oz” soundtrack… clearly a nod to the spectacle that had just taken place across the festival grounds during The Flaming Lips set.

Extended versions of “Seek Up” and especially “Warehouse” got the tired crowd on its feet.  ”When the World Ends” and “Rhyme and Reason” were unexpected live DMB highlights.  The band, for the third consecutive night performed more covers… This time they were in the guise of Aerosmith and Sly & The Family Stone.  Dave solo tracks like “Some Devil” and “Gravedigger” were performed late in the main set.

Sunday also saw the band's always spectacular take on "All Along the Watchtower" which as usual was made more the spectacular by the guitar stylings of Tim Reynolds.

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    Jim Ryan

    Jim Ryan has written about music in print and online for a variety of Chicagoland publications for over fifteen years. In addition to duties filling in as Traffic Anchor on CLTV or in the helicopter on NBC 5, you can also catch him Sunday nights at 6PM central as host of "The Rock N' Roll Radio Program" on AM 1420 WIMS and AM 1060 WHFB (streaming at wimsradio.com and via the TuneIn Radio app for the smart phone or tablet). Jim has also worked locally for WXRT-FM, lives within walking distance of the Metro and is an avid White Sox and Blackhawks fan whose first live concert experience came at Comiskey Park in 1984 during the Jacksons' "Victory" tour.

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