Dave Matthews Band Keeps New Songs Under Wraps

MINNEAPOLIS — After more than two months spent off the road to work on an album with new producer Glen Ballard, the Dave Matthews Band kept its new material a secret in its return to the stage on Sunday.

The forthcoming album — titled Everyday — is due to hit stores Feb. 27, and the band's keeping its songs under tight wraps to avoid bootlegs.

The group's two-hour and 20-minute performance at the sold-out Target Center included the recent song "Grey Street." The dark-tinged tune, from the band's scrapped summer recording project with longtime producer Steve Lillywhite, was a staple at DMB shows in the late summer.

For the current nine-city December tour, the group has added a special, seasonal element: "Christmas Song." The track was recorded for Platinum Christmas, a compilation destined to become a seasonal best seller thanks to contributions from Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, the Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync, Santana, and Whitney Houston.

Matthews kept the Yuletide number sweet and simple, sounding like Paul Simon and strumming an acoustic guitar, accompanied only by subtle percussion from Carter Beauford. The singer ended the tune with a loving touch, riffing from The Beatles with the lines "all you need is love" and "can't buy me love." The grateful Daveheads loved it.

The rest of the show was much like other recent DMB performances, if a bit skimpier — few songs extended beyond 10 minutes and a couple even clocked in at less than six. Violinist Boyd Tinsley's solos were few and far between, and saxophonist-flutist Leroi Moore had more solo space but seldom elevated the music to the next level. Sax and violin jams ignited "Jimi Thing," but the night's highlights had to be the swirling "Tripping Billies" and an over-the-top "All Along the Watchtower," which has become a high point at Dave Matthews Band concerts.

Opening was Parisian Afro-pop star Angelique Kidjo, who mixed in some funk and electronica with African grooves, pleasing the jam-band audience.