By KATE MAGANDY
BILOXI - Rob Thomas didn't need a "Crutch" and the "Real World" was anything but hassling him as more than 10,043 rocked Saturday night at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum for the triple threat of matchbox twenty, Train and Seven Mary Three.
The popular band fronted by Thomas walked on stage at 9 p.m. sharp after solid sets by the opening acts. Seven Mary Three kicked off the show with six songs and 20 minutes of rock despite having only about one-third of the crowd seated and U.S. 90 jammed with cars headed into the arena.
But the band churned out some of its best-known tunes while an appreciative crowd sang along.
Lead singer Jason Ross acknowledged his venue with comments about hair that wouldn't stay straight in the humid Mississippi weather, then thanked the hosts, matchbox twenty, saying, "It's like winning the lottery," before launching into its last tune.
Train came on half an hour later and played a nine-song, 45-minute set that hit the highlights of its self-titled debut album.
Lead singer Patrick Monahan showed his versatility by playing percussion, saxophone and a haunting trumpet while prancing across the stage to the delight of his female fans.
"Every day, I think to myself that I'm so lucky," Monahan said. "Then I come to Biloxi and said, 'I'm really lucky.' You guys are so good to us, I'm just going to look at you for a minute."
Then Train built up a quick head of steam behind the energy of a nearly full coliseum with "Meet Virginia" and "Free," but really came alive for the band's final song, the current release, "Drops of Jupiter."
But the night belonged to matchbox twenty, who opened with "Crutch," then launched into "Real World," "Grateful," "Leave" and the current hit "Bent" in a nine-song first set. The "first act," as Thomas called it, also featured "3 A.M.," which had the crowd jumping around in a frenzy to match Thomas' on-stage antics, Kyle Cook's white-hot guitar licks and Adam Gaynor's strong rhythm guitar.
Thomas' conversation with the crowd kept the show interactive, and the fans responded with enthusiastic cheers and raucous sing-alongs to the band's hits.
The stage was carpeted in red and had three screens in front of the raised platform holding Paul Doucette's drums, an organ and baby grand.
But the highlight was the light show that lent almost a Vegas feel to the final song of the first set as the musicians jammed.
For anyone looking for a good rock show, matchbox twenty was worth the price of admission.
"We know there are a lot of places you could have been and a lot of ways to spend your money, and we thank you for choosing to spend it to come see us," Thomas told the crowd.
From their response, it was money well spent.