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Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Post About Music, the Gospel, and a Dave Matthews Band Concert

I thought it would be worthwhile to write a reflection on the Dave Matthews Band concert that my wife and I attended at the Staple's Center last night. While it was a fun experience for both of us (it was the first time either of us has seen them live), what made it remarkable was the fact that this concert was held only hours after the band learned that LeRoi Moore (sax, flute, oboe), who founded the band with Dave and Carter in 1991, had died. It was certainly an odd and extraordinary thing to see them under these circumstances.

See this article for the news blurb on the concert.

Just before the show started we overheard folks in the audience talking about getting the news of LeRoi's death on their Blackberries. I wasn't sure I believed it, since the show had not been cancelled and it was only minutes away from showtime (the opening band had already wrapped up). But then the band came on and it was obvious. The usually-cheery drummer, Carter, was somber-faced. And their opening number was "Bartender", a song where God is personified as a bartender:

If I go
Before I'm old
Oh, brother of mine
Please don't forget me if I go

Bartender, please
Fill my glass for me
With the wine you gave Jesus that set him free
After three days in the ground

You can find the complete lyrics here. DMB never open their shows with that song, and I knew the that there was a reason for the change on that day.

After the song ended, Dave Matthews briefly explained the bad news, and that he hoped that the concert would help lift the band's spirits a little.

Dave Matthews was raised in a Quaker family, and while he has (from what I can gather) never found spiritual moorings of any sort, he clearly has something of a Christian imprint on his mind leftover, that he keeps toying (or wrestling) with. Need more proof? You need look no further than other selections from last night's set list - The Maker and the "Water into Wine Jam".

Facing death (either in one's own body or in a loved one) forces people to go back and re-examine things of fundamental and eternal purpose. I hope that it works some good in Dave's heart and life, that he would be forced to deal with the claims that Christ made about Himself.

It seems that, too often, folks just get around death by gritting their teeth and weathering out the existential crisis that death presents during episodes like this, and then tuck away those questions of eternal importance and resume life as they once did. As a Christian, I just can't relate to this attitude. It is lunacy. But I know that that's what happens. For them, it is just a sad thing that they have to wait out to be healed by the passing of time, even if they can't make any sense out of it or put the matter into any greater perspective. But for a Christian death is the enforcement of God's law, and God's law is what drives us to Christ (as Paul argues in Galatians 3). So, for us, death reminds us of our sin and misery, that we may seek refuge in Christ. But the non-Christian has to either ignore it or belittle it, or else be terrified, puzzled, and paralyzed by its presence in this life.

Now, I didn't want to reflect only on the spiritual and theological significance of the night. I'm a musician as well as being a music-lover, so I would be remiss if I didn't say that the concert was the best concert I've ever attended in my life (yes, even better than the U2 concert). The band hit every song out of the ballpark, including a blistering rendition of "Two Step" and "Dancing Nancies". You wouldn't have guessed that they were having an off day by their performances. They seemed genuinely cheerful during the more upbeat songs, as though they had nearly forgotten, momentarily, the day's events. Carter got his trademark grin back and silenced the whole auditorium during his drum solo during "Two Step." Jeff Coffin from Bela Fleck and the Flecktones was substituting for LeRoi, and Jeff is himself a virtuoso on sax and flute. He didn't miss a beat, and delivered some jaw-dropping solos. Tim Reynolds was on electric guitar, not having toured with DMB in ten years or so. His solos were goosebump-inducing incredible. He stole a few songs right from under the rest of the band when they let his guitar take the reigns for a few minutes. He is so good, he makes me want to just give up playing guitar altogether (my mental dialogue goes something like "why bother when Tim can play so much better than I ever will and just makes me look silly in comparison if I were to try?"). And Boyd's violin solos were crisp and animated, as he shuffled back and forth across the whole stage as his bowing arm flailed wildly during songs like "Ants Marching" and "Dancing Nancies". After 20 songs and about 3 hours, my wife and I felt we had gotten 3X our money's worth in both quality and quantity.

A further lesson to learn - never underestimate the genuine value and power of God's common grace. Great rock 'n' roll wouldn't exist without it.

Category: Blogging Ourselves


  • As a non-Christian I did as you said; I ignored and pushed down the knowledge that would erupt in my mind of my impending death. There were times when I was alone that I would stare at my hands and contemplate that they would one day rot. I could not wait to turn 16, I could not wait to get out of school, I could not wait to get the first job of my chosen career. These things all came to pass, the thought plagued me that my death, in the same way would also, one day, come to pass. The weight of this reality would sometimes be so heavy it seemed to actually push me down into my bed.

    The reality of that death is still as certain to me, should the LORD tarry, but I now am looking beyond the grave. The stakes are so high; I can't believe I lived as many years as I did as a condemned man one breath away from judgment by a holy and righteous God.

    By Blogger Dan, at 8:41 AM  

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