by Karen Berlin
May 09, 2001
Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas has nothing to complain about. He has been voted one of People magazine's most beautiful people, and he has won a Grammy award. Now he is spending his evenings singing to sold-out crowds at the world's biggest and loudest venues, such as Ft. Lauderdale's National Car Rental Center on April 20, Orlando's TD Waterhouse Center on April 21 and Tampa's Ice Palace on April 22.
Rob Thomas and the rest of the "Matchsticks" (as they are known to their adoring fans) - Adam Gaynor on rhythm guitar, Kyle Cook on lead guitar, Paul Doucette on drums and Brian "Pookie" Yale on bass - completed the southern leg of their U.S. tour in their home state of Florida. Touring with bands Everclear and Lifehouse created one of the best traveling rock shows that I have ever seen.
Before the show in Orlando, I accidentally ran into Gaynor while he was playing basketball with some of the Lifehouse members behind the arena. I was fortunate enough to be able to talk to him for a few minutes after his basketball game.
According to Gaynor, Matchbox Twenty is not currently working on any new songs and hasn't started thinking about their third album. When I asked if the band would be going into the studio some time in the next year, his exact answer to my question was a resounding and enthusiastic "No!"
"We've been busy with the tour," he said. "Everything is beautiful!"
"How about the songs?" I asked.
"I love playing every song, except for one, but I'm not telling you which one!" he laughed. I also asked him about the origin of his unique nickname "Hashbrown". "I gave it to myself," he said. "Everyone else had a cool nickname, and I wanted one too. Besides, there's nothing better than hash browns!"
Out of all the band members, Gaynor seems to most enjoy interacting with the audience during the show, making faces, jumping around the stage and nodding and winking at his fans. He was incredibly friendly, and his great sense of humor shone through as we spoke. He seemed to be a normal, down-to-earth kind of guy, qualities rare in rock stars with multi-platinum albums, multiple No. 1 songs and sold-out arena-sized concerts across the world.
For their U.S. tour, Matchbox Twenty really decided to play with fire. They put together an incredible light show. For each performance, a sheet was hung from the ceiling and lights danced upon it as the band members took their places, with shadows of their profiles appearing and tantalizing the fans. The sheet was dropped after a few beats of the song "Crutch" from the group's second album, "Mad Season," and with that, the band began a 20-song set.
The band played a mixture of radio singles, album favorites and cover songs, but the "b-sides" and unreleased tunes were missing from their recent set lists, unlike the Matchbox Twenty concert tours of 1998 and earlier. The constants, however, were their ability to be as great a live band as they are in the studio and Rob Thomas's funny song introductions and witticisms.
"Being from the South, I'd feel remiss if I made a record or was a part of something that didn't have a good cheatin' and drinkin' song!" Thomas said to introduce the hit single "Back 2 Good."
The apparent highlight of every show was the performance of "Real World," the fourth single from the band's first album, "Yourself or Someone Like You." The lights were flashy and multicolored, and the band was completely absorbed in the performance, as were the fans. The crowd went wild when the Matchsticks showed off a new, reggae-style bridge to the song.
"We're going to do a song that we didn't write but wish we did," Rob Thomas said, introducing their cover of the classic "All Along the Watchtower." The band also performed Charlie Rich's oldie, "Lonely Weekend," which will appear on a tribute album some time in the near future. The set list changed slightly in Tampa with the addition of "Sweet Home Alabama" and the removal of "Watchtower."
"Sometimes you feel like playing Lynyrd Skynyrd, man; you can't help it," Thomas explained.
Matchbox Twenty has built a solid fan base since their start in 1996, and it is plain to see that their fans greatly adore them. The first third of the arena was made up of fan club members. I've never seen a group of people so enthusiastic. They stood and sang along with every song, and many brought signs to hold up for the band to read, such as UCF freshman Amy Zachofsky, a member of the fan club with a seventh row seat in Orlando. Her sign used a line from the song "Mad Season," and read: " Rob, we think we can cope, if you give us a hug." She didn't get a hug, unfortunately, but being in such close proximity to her favorite band was nearly enough.
Jenn Ingle, another UCF student, traveled to Tampa to see the band play. "I'd never seen them in concert before, and I was so surprised at how great they are live. Rob Thomas is so hot!"
Thomas also spoke a lot about how far his band has come since they played local Orlando clubs such as the Sapphire Supper Club and Hard Rock Live. He mentioned the importance of local music. "Go somewhere you've never been," he urged. "Go see a band you've never heard of. Local music is very important!"
An hour and a half and 20 songs later, the band finally closed the show with their hit single, "Push." Once again, the boys of Matchbox Twenty amazed me with their live performance. There is a timeless quality about the music and such a great talent hidden away behind the mask of Top 40 fame and fortune. They are dedicated to their work and to their fans, and they have much to offer the music community. I look forward to hearing more greatness from these Orlando rockers in the future.