Matchbox Twenty delivers tenfold

By By Sandy MacDonald, The Halifax Daily News (Nova Scotia)

Halifax - 'You guys had a pretty f---ked up week," commiserated singer Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty last night. "We applaud you for being here -- maybe you came because you heard we had electricity."

Nine thousand people abandoned the drone of chainsaws in the streets to hear the no-nonsense rock of Matchbox Twenty. For a solid hit-packed 90 minutes, the band helped the crowd forget the past week.

The band exploded to life with Feel, the lead-off track from the new album. It was clear from the first note that the Metro Centre crowd was ready for a rock 'n' roll show, finally experiencing one of the best touring bands in the prime of its career.

The jewel in the band is Thomas, an intense, charismatic singer who carries most of the show. Though he's won Grammys and critical acclaim for his collaborative work outside the band, last night was all about Matchbox.

The Halifax date was the first stop on the band's Canadian tour, and they were busting to rock after several months of laying low.

The stage was clean, all the speaker stacks and the drum kit were shiny chrome and black, giving a futuristic sheen to the stage. Behind the band, three huge video screens flashed images and text behind the music.

This was the big-house rock show the Halifax crowd had paid to see.

Even with the huge sound and light production, Thomas's voice was cleanly out front in the mix. Through the laid-back pop rock of Soul and into the funky Latin groove of Disease from the new album, Thomas sang passionately, with his eyes-clenched shut and his hand patting rhythmically over his heart. He rules his stage, cool and sexy.

Guitarist Kyle Cook carried most of the lead-guitar flash, leaving the rhythm work to Adam Gaynor. With the addition of a new keyboard player and the band's solid rhythm section, they delivered a huge sound onstage, beautifully framing Thomas's singing.

This is all meat-and-potatoes rock, but cooked up so everyone gets what they like. From the big thumping rock of Mad Season and the plinky banjo intro of Unwell to the Latin groove of Smooth, Matchbox delivers accessible pop rock.

No surprises last night. But after a week full of unwelcome surprises, the predictable pleasures of Matchbox Twenty was just the ticket to cap it off.