Matchbox mission accomplished

July 30 2003
By Andrew Murfett

Rod Laver Arena
July 25

Of late, the iconic mullet haircut has - in an ironic sense - become fashionable again. It speaks volumes that Matchbox Twenty's lead singer, Rod Thomas, has been a defiant exponent of the famed hairstyle since his band first appeared more than six years ago.

Many rock fads and phases have passed in those ensuing years, but Thomas's band has not flinched in delivering two subsequent releases that barely deviate from their predecessors.

Playing to an arena of ardent fans last Friday, Thomas exuded confidence and charisma, and his audience was eating out of the palm of the Floridian's hands 10 seconds into the opening salvo, Cold.

Sliding into the early hit, Real World, Thomas implored the crowd to disregard the outside world (work/school, war) - it's popcorn music if you like - and cunningly, it succeeded. No stones were left unturned from last year's More Than You Think You Are, the definitive highlight of that album being the bluesy rendition of Hand Me Down.

There were a couple of curios. A cover of U2's anthem, Where the Streets Have No Name, served as a reference point of their influences, but it felt stilted. More successful was a deftly stripped-down When You're Gone, featuring 10,000 voices and guitarist Kyle's nimble licks. Thomas is a good songwriter (his compositions include Santana's Smooth), so it was a nice touch of humility to include several of his bandmate's compositions in the set.

There is a modesty to Matchbox Twenty - a rarity among American rock bands. Two hours after Thomas's plea for all other diversions to be forgotten, even the least ardent fan was singing along to an encore featuring the band's two biggest hits, Push and Longday. Mission accomplished.