ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
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.