Matchbox Twenty so very predictable

By Graham Rockingham, Hamilton Spectator (Ontario, Canada)

The five members of Matchbox Twenty have reached a peculiar place in their career. The band's hits are poppy enough to appeal to a broad market.

They get saturation radio play, sell CDs by the millions, but they're not exciting enough to make those same mainstream fans get off their couch and shell out $100 for a pair of tickets.

They're too old, too conventional for the 10,000 or so kids who flocked to see Good Charlotte at Copps last week. And they're too young to merit retro status like all those bands making a killing on sixties', seventies', even eighties' reunions.

So it was last night at Copps Coliseum, as Rob Thomas and his band played to a crowd of less than 5,000. The last time Matchbox Twenty played Copps, two years ago when Thomas was still under 30, they drew more than 8,000.

Next time, maybe they should think about Hamilton Place. In a smaller room, the crowd would be able to better understand Thomas' banter which last night was often lost in the echo of a largely empty hockey arena.

Matchbox Twenty consists of four casually dressed Gen-Xers playing journeyman rock 'n' roll behind a lead singer with sex appeal and an ability to write catchy pop tunes. Some of the best musicianship of the evening was produced by ex-officio band member/producer Matt Serletic who was sitting in on keyboards and steel guitar. This is a band that takes few chances. Solos were kept to a minimum. Nothing that might interrupt Thomas's meandering back and forth across the stage, occasionally stamping a foot, waving a hand or sitting down in front of a grand piano that stage hands would from time to time roll out for him.

"Every time I sit down here I feel like Lionel Ritchie," Thomas said jokingly.

The show opened with Feel, the big rocker off the new album More Than You Think You Are, and kept up a steady stream of crowd-pleasing favourites.

Ironically, one of the best received numbers was the band's cover of the 1980s anthem Don't You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds. It was jammed in between two of Thomas' biggest hits, Bent and Unwell.

Thomas was at his best when the rest of the band was off the stage, all except lead guitarist Kyle Cook, for a stripped down version of If You're Gone, a well-crafted song with lyrics that deserve to be heard. It would have worked better if Thomas hadn't stopped to say "Wow, that's pretty." It was as if he was pausing to take in his own brilliance.