Dave Matthews Band wows its audience frequently with massive sets lists consisting of their original material, which spans over eight full-lengths. DMB have released over twice the amount of live albums, though, and plenty of them feature superb cover versions of tracks many of us know and love. While difficult to identify the best, here are some covers performed by Dave Matthews Band that best represent their ingenuity when interpreting another artist’s work:
All Along the Watchtower
Jimi Hendrix produced the most famous cover version of this Bob Dylan classic, but Dave Matthews made waves with his interpretation as well. The track has become a fan favorite at DMB shows, and has been played everywhere from his Woodstock ’99 appearance to Central Park. The disjointed guitar halts during the first chorus is an interesting touch, as is Carter Beauford’s very sporadic bursts of percussion. When the build-up finally erupts, the catchy stabs of brass and furious acoustic riffs that have become DMB staples are very apparent, but not as much as Matthews’ ferocious snarls. You can count on one finger how many musicians have performed the classic “All Along the Watchtower” better than Dave.
Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)
DMB’s cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” appeared on volume 13 of their ongoing live albums compilation, Live Trax. Playing at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Dave unleashed one of the song’s best covers, led by thumping distortion and whirling guitar solos that ingeniously complement the pounding percussion. While no one will ever beat Neil Young at singing his legendary “hey hey, my my, rock ‘n’ roll will never die,” line, Dave comes mighty close. While groups like Oasis have released basic covers of this classic, DMB does it right by capturing the aggressive push of Young’s voice. No wonder this is another fan favorite.
What better way to end a show than playing a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Money”, complete with a massive saxophone solo and plenty of slap-bass? Dave Matthews Band has been known to play this as an encore at many of their shows. Their 5/31/12 show at Post Gazette Pavillion is one of the best representations. The band is an absolute force for over six minutes of guitar shredding and sax solos, all over the track’s infamous bass line. The only thing that’s missing is the cha-ching register sound. Backed by imagery of grey industrial machinery, similar to the cover of Pink Floyd’s Animals, DMB’s cover of “Money” proved to be a spectacular closer – and one that showed them as a band whose energy should never be reckoned with.
Dave Matthews Band’s music is often placid and consuming, easy to get lost in despite its technical ambition. Bob Marley’s knack for breezy melodies made a laid-back impression as well, and opened the doors to reggae for many listeners and artists alike. Dave dabbles in most styles of music, so it’s not surprising that his cover of Marley’s “Exodus” is so accomplished. Infusing reggae certainly isn’t a challenge for him. While his snarling voice is a contrast from Marley’s smooth vibes, the extra flavor adds nicely to the strong rhythmic lead. Add in a beautifully improvised saxophone solo from the late great LeRoi Moore, and you have a cover that’s bound to have fans nodding their heads with a satisfied grin.
Covering a Led Zeppelin song is often a first priority for aspiring bands, but that doesn’t mean Dave Matthews Band is beneath the practice. Their cover of “Tangerine” is beautiful and gripping, with a chirpy acoustic lead that resonates crisply over the lead vocals – just like the original. While this is a fairly stripped-down interpretation, especially compared to DMB’s other covers, it captures the emotions of the classic-rock classic with a respectful flair. Dave has been performing this one since the early ‘90s; it’s one of the best displays of his vocal chops, and is certainly responsible for recruiting a few fans more entrenched in classic-rock than Dave’s expert blend of styles at some point in their lives. DMB is also known to play Led Zep’s “Stairway to Heaven” during encores, often following “All Along the Watchtower” to create one big jam.
You Won’t See Me
While covering The Beatles in nothing special for any band, even the great ones, Dave Matthews Band showed off their clever infusion of strings with a cover of “You Won’t See Me”. A weeping southern-inspired string melody complements the song’s wistfully melodic acoustic lead, as brass reflects the percussion to create spurts of rhythmic additives. It’s a simple yet great cover of this Beatles staple. Even more noteworthy, “You Won’t See Me” is one of the band’s first circulated tracks during their early days; several recordings from 1991, the year DMB formed, are available. It’s one of their earliest songs, and covers.