I would be lying if I said I wasn't beyond excited to shoot Matchbox Twenty on Tuesday. They have been one of my favorite bands since I was like, 17. They have spent most of the time since 2007 on Hiatus. I have not so secretly been hoping they would tour again so I could cover the show, and I was finally given the chance.
They brought Matt Hires to open this round of Theater shows. I see a lot of opening bands that I have never heard of, but it takes something special to hold my attention. Hires and his band were able to do that.
Hailing from Florida, they reminded me of a mix between Matt Nathanson and Mumford and Sons: Great vocals, fantastic lyrics and harmonies, and a little banjo from time to time. Playing songs like, Restless Heart, they are poised to blow up in a big way. I really enjoyed their time on stage.
The guys in Matchbox took the stage a short time after Matt Hires cleared it. The extremely sold out Wellmont Theatre was on it's feet. After smiles all around, they launched into Parade from their incredible new album North. The band sounded fantastic. Better than ever. They played a couple older ones next, Bent and Disease, and the party was in full swing.
The core of Matchbox Twenty remains in tact. Brian "Pookie" Yale on bass. Kyle Cook on lead guitar. Paul Doucette on rhythm guitar, piano, keyboards and sometimes drums. Yes, drums. And of course, Rob Thomas on vocals and piano. Thomas has always been the creative force behind the bands success, going on to write hits for many others in the 90s and 2000s, but you cannot discount the rest of the band. Together, they have sold millions of records. Touring with them was also Matt Beck on guitar and keys, and Stacy Jones on drums.
At the start of the show, Thomas said they wanted to play theaters so everything was close. He wanted to get sweat on the front row. They certainly made the most of that space. At the height of their career, I saw them play at Madison Square Garden. I still remember that show, it was incredible. But Tuesday night wasn't any less incredible. They brought that huge arena show to Montclair, NJ. Lights, huge stage setup, and their incredible sound. And in between, they joked around and reached out to touch the hands of those closest to the stage.
They played an incredible 24 song set that spanned all of their albums. She's So Mean, How Far We've Come...then a short block of songs that were going to 'stay in 1996': 3 A.M., Real World, and Girl Like That. Goddamn if they didn't make me feel like I was 17 again. If You're Gone, Long Day, Unwell, Bright Lights all the songs you wanted to hear were there. The new tunes sounded amazing too, especially English Town which is my favorite from the new album.
After a short encore the band closed out the night with Put Your Hands Up, Back 2 Good, Changes (David Bowie Cover), and the song that started it all for them, Push.
On Tuesday MB20 made a great case for taking a break. For being a band who knows when they are getting burned out and taking a step back. They came back when they were ready, and they made an incredible album. Then they decided to do a small theater tour and sold out every night. Then they came out and they just put on a killer show. It was so easy to see that they were having a blast on stage. But beyond that, they did what you want your favorite band to do, they played incredibly. Like a band who was hungry again.
When I was a younger guy, I was that dude on the school bus with Yourself of Someone Like You in my discman every day. I came up playing music and Rob Thomas influenced the way that I sang, and even the way I tried to write music. I was never able to put words together as well as him though. I played in a bunch of bands and we always covered Matchbox Twenty songs. I respected the shit out of him as a songwriter, and that hasn't changed. He made me want to play music and that in turn became me wanting to photograph musicians as I got older. For about half my life, whenever someone asked me who it was that I don't know already and would like to hang out with, he was always the one. Even though I have shot everyone from Jay Z to Foo Fighters, I would still love to be able to spend a day talking and taking pictures of Rob Thomas.
Tuesday night, I was able to step outside of the job I was there to do, and I really enjoyed myself. I stayed for the whole show and it made me feel like I was 17 again. I never really thought that the band got the respect over the years that they deserved. For some reason, it was never cool to like Matchbox Twenty. That hasn't been lost on the band. Instead of dwelling on it, they spent a career crafting amazing pop songs. On Tuesday night, they played 23 of those songs, and every single one felt like a memory. And that is all you can really ask for from a great song; that it takes you to another, better place.
I would like to thank Pop-break for getting me in to cover this show, and Atlantic Records for making it possible. It was an amazing night for me and will certainly go down as a highlight in my career.