Hot-Selling matchbox twenty Carries a Torch for Arena Rock; Flick your Bic: Bombastic band fires up a new tour in support of its third album, "More Than You Think You Are"

By Dan Nailen, The Salt Lake Tribune (Utah)

In many ways, matchbox twenty is a band living in the wrong era.

Despite the age of its members and some electronic flourishes in its album production, the quintet is a modern version of a classic '70s-era, arena-rock band.

The live shows are big and bombastic, full of singalongs and ballads that prompt people to flick their Bics. And when matchbox twenty hits the road, it tends to stay out for stretches that would make KISS proud. The band sells records by the truckload and has clearly touched a nerve with fans, laughing off the critical naysayers hounding it since the release of its debut album in 1996.

That record, "Yourself or Someone Like You," has sold 12 million copies in the United States alone. Older music fans might recall critics dismissing Led Zeppelin or KISS through the '70s, while those bands laughed all the way to the bank. And matchbox twenty singer Rob Thomas has written songs for the likes of old dudes like Willie Nelson and Mick Jagger, not to mention the biggest hit in Carlos Santana's career, "Smooth."

Guitarist Kyle Cook goes along with the comparison, adding that even the acts that matchbox twenty occasionally covers in concert are from the '70s, or inspired by that decade: Wings-era Paul McCartney, David Bowie's "Changes," the retrophiles in the Black Crowes. And Cook certainly sees his band as carrying the torch of arena rock.

"We've always tried to give the audience as much show, as much production as we can fit into these places and still keep ticket prices down," Cook said in an interview two weeks into the band's tour supporting "More Than You Think You Are," matchbox twenty's third album.

At this point, Cook said, the show is still getting tweaked, depending on how the crowd is reacting to new material.

It helps that matchbox twenty has enjoyed virtually unparalleled radio and MTV support since its debut, and a string of hit songs that can fill a concert: "3AM," "Push," "Real World," "If You're Gone" and "Bent" among them. Events in the Middle East kept the band from touring in Europe this winter, so this jaunt is the first true road test of the new album and the first time band members Cook, Thomas, Paul Doucette, Adam Gaynor and Brian Yale will spend some extended time together since they finished recording "More Than You Think You Are" last summer.

Most of the matchbox twenty crew have side projects they work on between band work, so recording matchbox twenty albums and doing tours are essentially a means to get back together with old friends, albeit a group of old friends with a business partnership and more than 20 million albums sold around the world.

"There's a kind of magic to [the band]," Cook said. "Sometimes you forget why you respect what the band has that's unique when you're away. then when you're back in a room and someone says, 'Let's play "3AM," ' it falls back back into place. You haven't seen each other for three months or something, and it's like you've been playing together for weeks."