It’s been seven years since Dave Matthews last graced our shores and the roar that tears through the bowels at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl reflects this absence. The artist is a dearly loved figure in Melbourne; perhaps even more so here than in his native land.

Tonight’s crowd stands and refuses to be seated until the neons have faded into the gallows and his two-and-half-hour strong set is complete. Rarely does as Australian crowd gush with such unrestrained appreciation and sustain it for so long.

It’s a night of spiritual sentiment, largely resembling that of a scaled down Springsteen benediction. The punters – averaging somewhere between the ages of 28 and 40 – have been waiting patiently for Matthews’ return and a nostalgic trip back to late ‘90s house parties and unregulated bonfires.

Prior to the headliner appearing, it was up to Gary Clark Jnr and his entourage to fan a warming crowd – something he did not disappoint in doing.

Had Gary Clark been born 40 years earlier, he would’ve packed out Fillmore East and spent his days trading solos with musical luminaries of the day.

In other words, he would’ve been be far more appreciated than he is today. In a world of three-and-a-half minute structures and compressed downloads, he’s fighting the good battle with long solos and music that requires more than a casual spin.

Bookending his 45 minute set with his two biggest hits, Clark Jr impresses with a sound far punchier and more compact than during his last visit to Melbourne, where he played venues thrice as small. His smoothness across the fretboard is glistening and is helped by a smattering of material from his latest album.

It’s a welcome beginning in what would turn out to be a long, engrossing autumn evening.

Shadowed by a backing screen resembling an oversized carpet rug, Matthews and his entourage arrive to adulation and a standing applause. He appears genial, casually jigging to the crowd and chatting affably between tracks.

The artist begins with a quick dip to 1998 with ‘Don’t Drink The Water’, followed by a fast forward to 2012 with ‘Where The World Ends’ and onto ‘Funny The Way It Is’.

The band is so crisp, so finely honed you half expect a sense of repetition to set in. It never does. Their instrumentals are warm and diverse, allowing each of the members to show off their chops.

‘If Only’ ends with a lovely horn solo and an appreciative clap-along before the old (‘What Would You Say’) and the newish (‘Mercy’) are delivered gorgeously.

You can’t help but be swayed by the group’s virtuosity. They dip gloriously from jazz to rock to blues and back again with the effortless of a band that’s been doing it so long that they don’t know any other way.

‘Grey Street’ and ‘Rooftop’ continue their form, and by the time the end of the set is near, Matthews is skatting along with a psychotic drum solo that bleeds into the end of proceedings and a thoroughly enjoyable trip back to 1998.

Fingers crossed it won’t be another seven years until his return to our shores.

Setlist

Don’t Drink the Water
When the World Ends
Funny the Way It Is
Rooftop
Belly Belly Nice
If Only
Lie in Our Graves
What Would You Say
Mercy
So Much to Say
Anyone Seen the Bridge
Too Much
Digging a Ditch
Grey Street
Squirm
You and Me
Jimi Thing
Shake Me Like a Monkey
Encore:
Spaceman
Cornbread
Ants Marching