There was a great musical lineup to catch in Atlanta, GA during the NCAA’s Final Four weekend celebration. Major brands Coca-Cola, AT&T, and Capital One sponsored the three day Big Dance Concert Series at Centennial Park, which featured Muse, My Morning Jacket, Flo Rida and Dave Matthews Band, to name a few. My schedule did not permit me to attend the first two nights (my Wolverines in the semifinal took precedence). Grace Potter, Sting, and Dave Matthews Band were scheduled for Capital One’s Jamfest and that was on my “must see” list. How could I say no to a free live experience of that lineup for the first time?
So I journeyed with some friends to Centennial Park and arrived in time to catch a portion of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals’ set. Dressed in shimmering gold, homegirl was tearing it up vocally on the stage, belting out the lyrics to the spiritual “Nothing but the Water.” She followed that up with her anthemic “The Lion the Beast the Beat,” electrifying the crowd of over 40,000 with the sounds from her ‘Flying V’ Gibson guitar. She capped off her performance with “Paris” and “Medicine,” joining two of her band mates for a jam on the drums on the latter. Potter proved to the crowd she was a rock queen in her own right.
There was a 45-minute break, which me gave plenty of time to slowly inch my way towards the front of the stage for Sting’s set. The Englishman’s band promptly took to their places at 6PM, the sound of the bass notes to “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You” thumped over the speakers as Sting made his appearance. Though now in his sixties, he still looked as fit as if he had not aged beyond 40.
For the next hour and a half, the cross-generational audience equally enjoyed the hits from his solo career as well as those from his time as Police frontman. Standout tracks from the set included “Walking On The Moon” and “The Hounds of Winter,” during which the backing vocalist showcased the strength of her pipes. Sting has not lost his vocal prowess either, flawlessly hitting all the high notes on “Message in A Bottle” and the Police classic “Roxanne.” I did miss Cheb Mami’s original raï intro to the encore performance of “Desert Rose,” though Sting’s rendition of it was acceptable. I hope Mr. Mami is there to sing it when Sting returns to Chastain Park in Atlanta in June. He closed off his encore set with “Every Breath You Take.”
After another 30-minute break, the crowd was ready to hear the band that would put the “jam” in this Jamfest- Dave Matthews Band. By this point, the park had filled to capacity and any late-comers were told they could not enter and had to enjoy the music from the outside.
The Dave Matthews Band did not disappoint their older or younger fans, entertaining them for a little over 2 hours with hits from their vast 3-decade-old catalogue. From the opener “Don’t Drink The Water” to “Rapunzel,” it was a 17-song playlist of one “jam” after another featuring the epic instrumental breaks the band is famously known for. A few of them lasted up to 11 minutes or longer. The dynamics of each song were well captured, sonically speaking, and the mix engineers deserve recognition the great job they did. Dave’s acoustic was sounding very crisp and Carter Beauford’s kick, tom and cymbal hits had the right impact. For an outdoor concert, the mix came through clean, undistorted, and was loud without being fatiguing to the ears- not just for Dave Matthews, but even the earlier acts as well. The rest of the production was top-rate and I was also thankful no shortcuts were taken there due to this being a free event. The band fittingly ended the evening with a 15-minute romp of the hit “Two-Step.”
The three day concert series was a success, with the Jamfest having the largest draw of them all. If I could have it my way, I would motion for Atlanta to host the NCAA Final Four often for more experiences like this, but alas, I have no vote on the board that plans this event.
– Submitted by Akrofi Koram, Hardware Specialist