The Riverside Theater in Milwaukee welcomed Matchbox Twenty to a packed house on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013. Rob Thomas and company are back together again and riding high on "North," their first album to debut on at #1 on the Billboard 200. They came into Milwaukee strong following their pre-game Super Bowl XLVII performance last week. Phillip Phillips, the season 11 winner of "American Idol," opened the show and was warmly welcomed by the Riverside crowd.
Matchbox Twenty have always played by their own rules. They were named "Best New Band" by a Readers Poll in Rolling Stone in 1997 and their multi-platinum debut, "Yourself or Someone Like You," blew up with a multitude of chart singles. Rather than quickly get back into the studio they eased into their sophomore effort, "Mad Season" almost four years later and with continued multi-platinum success. They have interspersed a hiatus or two between albums that have kept their attitude fresh, in place of burnout that frequently plagues other successful artists. It also implies a hot ticket when they do hit the road--the show at the Riverside has long been sold-out.
They opened with "Parade," the lead track from "North." The gentle song provided a good start to immediately showcase Thomas' vocals. It's no wonder that Thomas has found great success in Matchbox Twenty, as a solo artist and with his various collaborations. He sings with strength and clarity and his intonation drips with character, helping to drive forth a song's emotion with his voice.
The set was heavy on new material, but they also performed a show that just touched upon two-hours. Thomas introduced "I Will" by saying, "If I were forced to find a favorite off the new record, this would be it." It began with Kyle Cook on acoustic guitar and Paul Doucette on the piano. The touching ballad demonstrates the strength of the new album.
Mixing in the classics, they played "3 A.M." early into the night, while most of the house sang along. Fans stayed on their feet for the entire show, dancing and singing along to both new and old music alike. Thomas said, "Let's keep it back in '96," as they continued with "Real World" from their debut.
It appeared to be a good night for both the artists and fans. Thomas frequently had a smile on his face and before "Long Day" he approached Doucette to straighten his tie and express his appreciation for the guitarist's style. Thomas introduced touring musicians Matt Beck on keyboards and drummer Stacy Jones midway through the song. He then sang the first verse of Jane's Addiction's "Jane Says" before segueing back into "Long Day."
"I'm a man that knows what it was like to grow up in the age of radio," proclaimed Thomas. He pointed to a few college-aged fans in the front row and added, "You will never know what it's like to hover over the radio while waiting to hit record, then telling the DJ to shut up at the start of the song." That was his insight to their inspiration for "Radio."
One of the night's many highlights was "So Sad So Lonely." Cook began the song by performing the first verse of "Stay With Me" by the Faces before Thomas took over and transitioned into "So Sad." Cook gave a clinic on blues guitar, spilling into an extended solo while the band jammed behind him. Thomas grabbed a fan's cell phone and took a few photos while Cook continued to play. After returning the phone to the fan, Thomas poured himself into his verses, matching Cook's soulful play and the two brought down the house as they kicked back into the song's original tempo for its grand finale.
They finished strong with a four-song encore that began with "Put Your Hands Up" and "Back 2 Good." Thomas said, "This is the sound of our childhood," as an introduction to R.E.M's "The One I Love." Fan favorite, "Push," concluded the night and sent the crowd home still humming the hit single.
The intimate Riverside Theater was the perfect setting for the return of Matchbox Twenty. They were able to maneuver a large production with rich lighting into the small venue. It brought the fans and band into close confines and allowed the energy to immediately build from the first song and they maintained that level through to the last song.
Matchbox Twenty setlist:
She's So Mean
How Far We've Come
Girl Like That
If You're Gone
All Your Reasons
So Sad So Lonely
Sleeping at the Wheel
Put Your Hands Up
Back 2 Good
The One I Love (R.E.M. cover)