dave matthews caravan day 1

Dave Matthews takes the stage for the concert. Friday June 24 2011 Dave Matthews Caravan, Bader field Atlantic City. (The Press of Atlantic City / Ben Fogletto)

Ben Fogletto

ATLANTIC CITY — The Dave Matthews Band ended the first day of its Caravan just like the rest of the day went: perfectly.

All day, the 13 other bands that performed on three stages at Bader Field were like clockwork, hitting and leaving the stage on time and pleasing fans musically on a beautiful summer day with enough wind to keep the bugs away.

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More than 20,000 people packed the former airport runway as Matthews and his band took the stage to celebrate its 25th anniversary, coming out fiercely with two angry songs: “Don’t Drink the Water” and “You Might Die Trying” before mellowing out with the quirky ballad, “Proudest Monkey,” from its most commercially successful album, 1996’s “Crash.”

“Thank you for all the music, for being here and for everything,” said Matthews, acknowledging nearly every performer that played throughout the day. “I hope I can keep you awake after all of that excitement.”

DMB kept it mellow with the fan-favorite “Satellite,” which has a similar beginning to “Proudest Monkey,” and “Captain” before turning the place into a hoedown with the fun  “Cornbread,” followed by the energetic “Funny the Way It Is” and “Seven,” back-to-back tracks from the band’s latest album, “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King.”

The set offered some nice surprises, too, particularly when singer/songwriter David Ryan Harris joined the band for the Matthews staple “Jimi Thing.” Other cool choices were the unreleased “Cornbread” and “Shotgun” and two awesome covers of Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale” as well as the finale, Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times,” which may have been the first time DMB ever played the Zep classic.

As usual, the band — the entire band at one point or another — showed its ability to improvise yet stay tight, particularly guitarist Tim Reynolds on “You Might Die Trying” and the Zep cover, and saxophonist Jeff Coffin and trumpeter Rashawn Ross, who offered dueling horns on “Gray Street.”

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