Dave Matthews got goofy Wednesday.

After three different songs, he said "hello" to the 17,000 faithful at sold-out Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. At least four times between numbers, he slipped into a girlish (or a kid's) voice and declared, "I can't feel my face."

Either it was stoner humor or he misses his three young kids. Or maybe Matthews, 43, is really anxious to get off the road -- the Dave Matthews Band is taking a touring hiatus in 2011. DMB deserves a vacation after 20 consecutive years of performing.

No musical act has sold more concert tickets in this century. The Dave Matthews Band became concert kingpins by using an old-school approach: tour every year (whether you're promoting a new album or not), play long and generous concerts, and make a new set list every night. And like a jazz ensemble, DMB never plays one song the same way twice.

DMB's first Twin Cities concert since 2005 was uneven, with many winning moments but some unspectacular ones as well during the 2¾-hour performance. Certainly, DMB has been more satisfying in the Twin Cities. More so than usual, DMB went for the short and punchy version of its material rather than the kind of long jams that made the Grateful Dave the favorite live band of Gen Y. There were not many solo opportunities for new saxophonist Jeff Coffin (who replaced the late LeRoi Moore in 2008), and Dave didn't do much of his dorky dancing that lets you know that he's having a grand time.

However, by the end of the long night, you forget the lesser moments and remember the good stuff.

"Warehouse" evoked Paul Simon, with an infectious island groove and a festive trumpet flourish by Rashawn Ross, one of the three sidemen working with the core DMB quartet.

Boyd Tinsley's violin solo ignited "Crush," Tim Reynolds' guitar kept the fire burning and Carter Beauford exploded on drums, propelling Dave to do that dance. The closing jam was so fierce that Reynolds and Beauford fist-bumped each other afterward.

Matthews became a possessed, impassioned vocalist on the intense, herky-jerky "Seven."

"#41" was the kind of classic jam that made DMB so popular. Saxist Coffin and drummer Beauford got into an intimate instrumental exchange as if they were playing to 170 people at the Dakota Jazz Club, not an arena full of rabid fans. Matthews got so excited that he saluted Beauford with two clenched fists during the performance.

Matthews' passionately soulful singing made the swampy voodoo funk of "Can't Stop" totally believable.

The horn section from opening act Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears joined in for "Jimi Thing," creating a five-man horn competition that added new levels of excitement.

Could the closing encore of "Ants Marching" have been any more festive fun?

For a set list, go to www.startribune.com/artcetera

Jon Bream • 612-673-1719