October 15 , 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 25  

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Matchbox Twenty
John Labatt Centre
Oct. 7, 2003

Amidst the friendly local-band, small-venue scene that marks London entertainment is the John Labatt Centre, where the price of beer is high and the level of intimacy is low. But nowhere else in London can house a world-wide touring arena-rock band like Matchbox Twenty and its rowdy 7,000-fan crowd.

Rob Thomas and his band have been rocking out concert venues for nearly a decade and it shows in their eager stage presence and concert-friendly vigor, which radiates from the moment they enter the stage. Their heated and almost angry live performance defies the vanilla radio-band status they’ve been slapped with since their string of hit singles began with “Push” in 1996. The melodramatic sound of their earlier singles, over-produced for radio, discredits the heartfelt rock Matchbox Twenty delivers live and at their best.

Regardless of what Thomas’s critics say, the band at least played the rock-star part: dressed in leather pants and an MC5 T-shirt, bassist Brian Yale stole the stage during the lively opening set, featuring the band rocking out together before Thomas even entered the stage.

Pleasing their fans, the band’s dynamic performance included a nice mix of their earlier hits balanced with songs from their new and heavier album More Than You Think You Are, demonstrating the evolution the band has made in both songwriting and musicianship. The band members were interactive with each other and the spotlight never remained on Thomas long, although his rough and sexy look is undeniably the ultimate crowd pleaser.

The band proved their often noted seventies-rock inspiration during their superb covers of U2’s “Where The Streets Have No Name” and Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold,” which proved to be the highlight of their encore set. Despite his ability to rock with the best of them, Thomas’s best performance of the night was “Bright Lights,” where he demonstrated his skills sitting down at the piano and getting warm with the audience.

Catering to the Western crowd, Thomas teasingly told the story behind “Back to Good,” a song he wrote to describe the sad state of lowered standards after last call at the bar. He was interactive and chatty with the audience during the two-hour show, imposing his authenticity as a good guy even on those most skeptical of his down-to-earth persona.

Matchbox Twenty’s performance was so earnest and full of life the songs seemed to have a Springsteen anthem quality to them. Fans did not leave disappointed, but rather feeling satisfied and inspired by the band’s overall stellar show. Matchbox Twenty proved they can deliver the goods where they belong — in a powerful live performance comparable to that of any legendary arena-rock band. And Thomas himself proved anger really can be sexy.

—Ashley Audrain



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