by YAVONDA FLETCHER
Matchbox twenty and the More Than Thinks About Tour rolled into North Little Rock's Alltel Arena on Saturday night and owned central Arkansas until they were ready to say goodnight.
Sound problems that plagued opening acts Maroon 5 and Sugar Ray were largely ironed out by the time Rob Thomas, Kyle Cook, Paul Doucette, Adam Gaynor and Brian Yale took the stage.
In a recent interview, Doucette promised concertgoers a "spectacle." While that characterization might be a stretch, it would be accurate to say fans got a solid blend of old hits and new material that was complemented by a high-tech light and video show.
Unlike many bands, matchbox twenty doesn't really change up its songs when playing live. The version on the studio cut is pretty much the same version you'll hear live. Which certainly makes it easy for fans to sing along.
And sing along they did. Matchbox twenty pulled the Arkansas crowd to its feet with such hits as "Real World," "3 am," "Bent" and "Push," which served as their final encore. Thomas sauntered around the stage, pulling his mic stand behind as he drove the crowd wild crooning the "I feel ugly but I know I still turn you on," line from "Mad Season."
Never dramatic, Thomas mesmerized the crowd. Unlike Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath who engaged the crowd with a high-energy set and humorous antics, Thomas seemingly never had to try hard to get the crowd's attention. He simply had them at hello.
But he earned their adoration Saturday night. The rest of the band wasn't too shabby either. Cook shone on "Hand Me Down" as he played both the keyboard and the electric guitar, complete with two solid solos. That song segued into an acoustic duet of "If You're Gone," with only Thomas and Cook.
Toward the end of the set, the cursed sound problems did rear their ugly heads. Something went wrong with the keyboard before "Unwell." While waiting for the roadies to fix the problem, Cook and Thomas simply launched into a nice little jig about fixing the keyboard. It was nice to see the band respond to a little annoyance with professionalism and humor.
Those qualities were going around on Saturday night. Poor Maroon 5's show can't accurately be judged. It was impossible to hear the lead singer over the band on most of their songs. They might have actually been good tunes, two girls who had traveled from Dallas to hear them certainly thought so, but from this concert, we'll never know.
Sugar Ray on the other hand, did exactly what an opening act is supposed to do - psych up the crowd. Despite the fact that McGrath was drowned out by the band on half the songs, he strutted, flirted and rocked his way through a 45-minute set, making sure to include all the songs fans wanted to hear - "Fly," "Someday," "Every Morning" and "When Its Over."
In fact, he was so much fun, we can almost forgive him that horrible near-mullet he was sporting.
This story was originally published on Sunday, April 27, 2003.