Matchbox Twenty Comes On Strong

Special to the Courant
August 19, 2001

In the post-grunge guitar rock scene, few bands have been hotter than Matchbox Twenty, which followed up its 10 million-selling 1996 debut set with a new album, "Mad Season," that has churned out some monster singles of its own. Those tunes and much of the rest of the group's small catalog were rolled out for a crowd announced at 15,000 at the Meadows Music Centre Saturday night in a high-energy show loaded with arena rock-style trappings.

The five-piece band Train preceded the headliner with a 45-minute set built on accessible rock not unlike what would soon follow. Lead singer Pat Monahan gamely yelped out the lyric of the opener "Respect," but erased the quirky charms found on the studio recording of the band's hit single "Meet Virginia" with a similarly nuance-free delivery.

Matchbox Twenty members made early cameos when guitarist Kyle Cook joined Train for a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Ramble On" and drummer Paul Doucette strolled out to offer an unexciting conga solo during "Free." The set closed on a high note when the sweeping, keyboard-edged "Drops of Jupiter" elicited joyous whoops and much lyrical chanting from a crowd that clearly loved its hit singles.

Matchbox Twenty matched its unending procession of pumping rock numbers with plenty of visual spectacle, courtesy of an array of light banks that were constantly in motion. That said, the vision that people were most taken with was heartthrob lead singer Rob Thomas, whose every pose and strut was met with screams as he growled out the leadoff "Crutch" and the bobbing electric rock of "Real World."

Thomas could not be faulted for lack of effort, whether visibly straining as he shouted the lyric of "Leave" or running back and forth across the stage throughout the melodramatic "Bent," stopping only to lick the head of soloing guitarist Cook. Thomas ascended a riser to add trickling piano to the swelled-up "Rest Stop" and the equally inflated "You Won't Be Mine," but was soon back at center stage to belt out such numbers as a pulsing cover of the Black Crowes' "Remedy."

Acoustic guitar edges courtesy of Adam Gaynor colored the steady hop of "3 A.M.," but the signature sound of the evening was the electric guitar grind that filled such tunes as the swirling "Angry." The measured "Back 2 Good" and the anthem-style "Mad Season" closed out the main set, after which the group soon returned to do a classic band cover of its own, a pounding reading of the Beatles' "Don't Let Me Down." The group then spent the last of its hit single artillery, the recent "If You're Gone" and the explosive rock of "Push," which were similar enough in style to the rest of the night that they seemed like little more than loose ends by the time they arrived.