Rob Thomas gives great show

matchbox twenty gave their Valley fans a night to remember.
Randy Cordova
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 01, 2001 12:06:00

Telling an audience what a great crowd it has been is one of the dustiest clichés in the rock-star manual. But fans packing Cricket Pavilion on Saturday for the closing show of matchbox twenty’s "Mad Season" tour were indeed a great crowd. In fact, the exchange of mutual good will between leader Rob Thomas and his enthusiastic followers helped fuel the high-powered evening.

The audience, which spanned in age from teenagers to young Sun City types, was loudly enthusiastic from the moment Thomas and his four band mates took the stage. The gregarious Thomas seemed to thrive on the energy, becoming more animated and loose with every song.

That’s not to say he was ever low-key. Opening with the power-pop crunch of "Crutch," his spastic dance moves and distinctive wail were charismatic from the start. In person, he’s an even better singer than the hits suggest, injecting "Leave" and the story song "Rest Stop" with a poignant sincerity. During "Black and White People," the tune unraveled into a jam session, and Thomas engaged in some soulful "Good God!" interjections.

Thomas is undoubtedly the center of attention, but it wasn’t a one-man show. For the tour, the group was augmented with three horn players and an extra guitarist, creating an engagingly thick sound on several numbers. The swirling harmonies in "Last Beautiful Girl" were a thing of beauty, as was the lopping beat and bouncy guitars in "Mad Season."

The mood was warm and familial (probably due to a combination of it being the last show on the tour and the nation’s recent events). A little gnome yard light stood on the piano, an American flag placed in its hand. And at one point, images of the flag appeared on three video screens, cleverly placed beneath the band.

During one of the show’s lighter moments, Thomas performed a brief, silly dance with a roadie. Another funny thing happened when opening act Train interrupted matchbox 20’s set with a present for Thomas. A man dressed as a policeman came on stage, then proceeded to strip down to a G-string, to the delight of the crowd and the shock of Thomas, who cracked, "It’s so nice they brought their boyfriend with them."

It was such a solidly entertaining evening that even the flubs came off as good-natured. At one point in the nearly two-hour show, a roadie bringing a guitar onstage tripped, breaking the instrument in two. Thomas then handed the pieces to a member of the audience, cheerfully saying, "Happy birthday."

The Arizona Republic