Old favorite still number one

Gillian Perazzo

Even though the president was in New York City last Wednesday along with members of the United Nations, the place to be that night was on the Great Lawn in Central Park for a free concert from the Dave Matthews Band.

Oh yes, that’s right. Free.

Thanks to the persistence of Caroline Kennedy-Schlossberg, the Dave Matthews Band had the privilege of playing the Great Lawn, a venue that has hosted the likes of Elton John, Simon & Garfunkel and Diana Ross. According to Rolling Stone magazine, the magnitude of this show has promoted DMB to the same status as the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen.

The band collaborated with AOL and Time Warner to perform a fundraising concert that generated $1 million for the Fund for Public Schools in New York City, plus an additional $1 million from other sponsors to benefit the city’s parks. The event was used as both a fundraising and marketing tool by AOL to showcase its new broadband service. Through live Internet streaming, AOL broadband users were able to view the concert from the comfort of their homes.

While millions of people viewed the concert via computer, the Central Park venue was well attended to say the least. Over 90,000 people packed the park for an evening of entertainment from this Virginia based “jam band.” Although tickets were free, donations were welcome as all proceeds benefited the school children of NYC and Charlottesville, the hometown of the band.

Because there were no reserved spots, seating (or sprawling on the grass to save room for friends) was on a first come, first serve basis. The line at the East 72nd Street entrance began at 9 a.m. the day before the show. By the time the NYPD began to allow fans into the park (3 p.m. Wednesday) the line of concertgoers stretched from 72nd down to 66th and then all the way back up again. Once you made your way through multiple security check points, you were home free; you and 89,999 other people.

But once the band stepped out onto the stage, it didn’t matter where you stood, as long as you could hear Dave’s haunting voice beckoning, “Come out, there’s no use in hiding,” as he opened with “Don’t Drink the Water.” To aid the swarms of head-bobbing Dave-fanatics, multiple large high-definition screens were set up on either side of the park so that even the people who arrived after the show started (and were three football fields away from the stage) could see everything going on.

The set list made for a high-energy show and included favorites such as “Ants Marching,” “Warehouse”and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.” Along with DMB favorite Butch Taylor, three-fourths of the way through the show, Dave introduced his good friend, Warren Haynes, who accompanied the band on Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer” as well as a funky Dave-scat rendition of “Jimi Thing.” Most notably, during “Jimi Thing” the band slithered into a version of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” that twisted lyrics around a Dave speak-type thank you to sponsors, the audience and of course, the crew.

And boy, did the crew deserve some applause. While a scruffy bearded Dave danced around in his typical fashion, the crew worked impressively to capture every moment, both visually and acoustically. The bonus? Keep an eye out for a CD/DVD release of the show rumored to hit shelves as early as November.

The boys tied up the more than three hour event with an impressive three-song encore that included “Grey Street,” “What You Are,” and appropriately, “Stay.” With Central Park as the band’s final show for the season, those in attendance whether in NYC or at home felt an optimistic surge from the band’s performance especially when Dave reaffirmed that “New York City is the greatest damn city in the whole wide world!”