By Jeff Maisey, The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)
A hot Fourth of July weekend received a spirited send-off as Matchbox Twenty and Sugar Ray each gave fun performances filled with hit songs and memorable gags at the Verizon Wireless Virginia Beach Amphitheater on Sunday night.
This show marked the end of Sugar Ray's leg on the tour, and during their set, Matchbox Twenty arranged for ninjas to crawl down from the rafters after dropping pingpong balls on the band.
As for Sugar Ray's musical effort, the group from Southern California brought an amusing party-like atmosphere to the venue. Illuminated red chili peppers were strung across the band's equipment, and Mexican Day of the Dead artwork gave the stage a South of the Border ambience.
Singer Mark McGrath was in pure party mode also, as he paced energetically back and forth across the stage. And in the center of the stage was not a drum kit, but a full bar, complete with a sombrero-wearing bartender who kept the drinks coming for McGrath.
Throughout their short-but-sweet set of sugar-coated pop songs, Sugar Ray supplied the 15,000-plus members of the audience with a healthy dose of their radio-played tunes, including "Every Morning" and "Someday". They also performed a passable version of the Ramones "Blitzkrieg Bop," before ending with "Fly," a song McGrath dedicated to the local military personnel.
Matchbox Twenty was equally up to the task of fulfilling the expectations of the eager audience, which ranged from middle age to pre-teens. Matchbox's stage set was simple and clean. The guitar speaker cabinets were made from a clear plastic material. Bright reds and blues flashed along with strobe lights. Behind the drum set was a rectangular widescreen that remained brightly lit and created an interesting silhouette of percussionist Paul Doucette.
Matchbox Twenty performed all the hits as heard on radio and in the movies, including "3 AM" and "Disease," a song co-written by singer Rob Thomas and Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. They also performed a few cover songs: Paul McCartney and Wings' "Jet" and "Don't You Forget About Me" from Simple Minds.
Singer Rob Thomas kept the women in the audience on the edges of their seats. At one point when he sat at his piano, he said, "I'm just gonna sit here and sweat." That drew a frenzied response from the crowd.
Also on the brisk side of things, merchandise vendors sold out of every T-shirt, sticker and program. By the end of the night, no souvenirs were left in the stands.
And last but not least, in these modern times, members of the audience shot numerous photos from their palm-size digital cameras and dialed friends on their cell phones to broadcast the concert via satellite.