SHOW: A Night in the Life of Matchbox Twenty Review
Matchbox Twenty released their debut album Yourself or Someone Like You in 1996, to little attention. For the three years until the release of their second album, Mad Season they had been out on a lengthy tour, slowly building up a large fan base and in that time their debut album had achieved multi-platinum status. They're not a band who has received constant critical praise but they have managed to work their way into the American mainstream audiences and accumulate a wealth of response. Their third and most recent album to date is More Than You Think You Are, released in 2003.
Lead singer, Rob Thomas has enjoyed other projects in recent years, including the smash single "Smooth" with Santana in 1999 which has led to Matchbox Twenty receiving even more fans. The group have won several fan awards, a true testament to their success that despite a lack of much critical praise they have won the hearts of many modern rock fans as they’ve toured all over the world.
On June 28th, 2003 Matchbox Twenty did an intimate stop over gig at the Phillips Arena in Atlanta as part of their More Than You Think You Are tour. The evening was recorded for this state of the art, pioneering DVD release.
I have to say that I'm a fan of Matchbox Twenty. Their first album still stands out today as a brilliantly consistent piece of work. Each track is wonderful and it isn't surprising to see that the band had managed to ride on its success for three years (putting out seven singles from the album) before releasing any new recordings. Now firmly established they are one of a few interesting rock/pop groups worth checking out.
I use the term rock lightly, they're hardly heavy but more akin to bands like R.E.M. and Counting Crows which makes them a very accessible act to follow. Matchbox Twenty simply adopt a mentality that says we should just enjoy life and that music is often our escape from the bad things in the world and can be very therapeutic.
SHOW: A Night in the Life of Matchbox Twenty has the band showcasing their talent for 100 minutes, playing selected songs from their three multi-million selling albums. I shall give a rundown of the concert after this pic:
The girls begin to scream, well so do the guys but the girls are slightly more deafening. Kyle Cook immediately gets down to a solo introduction with his guitar and so starts off the evening with "Cold". The lights flash and Rob Thomas appears from the stage podium, dressed in a fine black shirt and red trousers. Rob sings his song about troubled feelings, while carrying his funky essence throughout.
Thanking the crowd he gets straight into their next song, "Real World", the opening track taken from their debut album. Adam Gaynor, Brian Yale and Kyle Cook strike up the chords, Rob smiles to the crowd and from here on in the concert gets fun. Ideally this should have been the opening track, the response is superb. Rob sings at a slightly slower pace than the album version but he sings it with real feeling and the crowd love him for it. Paul Doucette gets cracking on the drums for this passionate rendition of one of their most loved tracks.
After the song is done Rob has a chat with the crowd, he proceeds to tell them that they are on a mission - a mission to rock the arena and to make the people forget all the shit that is going on in the world outside. As he tells them to shake their ass he gets into the next track, "All I Need". The track remains lively as the last one and as it plays out the tempo drops and we are introduced to "Soul".
"Disease", written by Rob Thomas and Mick Jagger follows. Cook and Yale make fine music together but lyrically the song isn't one of my favourites and the overall tone of this piece drags. Next up is "Could I Be You". Another in a line of love songs, penned by Rob which see him take to the piano to give an enthusiastic performance.
Adam Gaynor opens up the next track, "3 AM" with his unforgettable riff. It's safe to say that most of Matchbox Twenty's most loved songs come from their first album. The crowd lap it up in what is one of the more memorable performances of the concert.
"Mad Season", taken from the eponymous second album is one of only three tracks from the album to be played. It's a bit of a shame as I think the album has more deserving tracks to be played live, such as "Black & White People" and "Last Beautiful Girl" but sadly these have been left out. Still, it’s another good performance.
"Feel" has Cook strumming his guitar and Rob bellowing out More Than You Think You Are's intro track, which is also one of its weakest. It doesn’t last long and we are given "Hand Me Down" next. Starting off with Gaynor's soft intro, Rob gets into of the more sombre tracks from their third album.
Rob and Cook get together for a duet, as they sing one of the most successful songs from their second album, "If You're Gone". Of all the songs performed during the concert, this is the one that is the most startlingly different, feeling more like an acoustic effort than the album's more robust version. The track is one of Rob's more heartfelt efforts and it grabs the audience by the spleen.
Rob gets back on the piano for "Bright Lights". A memorable performance, the song is a mixture of pop ballad and rock, culminating with Cook jumping on top of the piano and giving a fine solo effort, much to the audiences delight. "Bent" is played faithfully to the album version, in all it is a pretty standard effort but the audience love it and scream so loud that it's like they've all won the lottery at the same time, ran out in the street to celebrate, only to then get hit by a bus as Rob shuts them up for his next speech.
Here he tells the crowd that it's alright to be a little f***** up now and then, "Unwell" plays out to that belief and reassures the crowd. It's a nice song but doesn't quite hit the notes that the album version does. It's late on in the concert by now and Rob is sweaty and tired but keeps going strong.
Next up is another favourite track from their first album, "Back to Good". This is a brilliant song no matter which way you look at it. The lads give a wonderful performance, the audience sings along and it's all very emotional and filled with a lot of heart.
"Downfall" gets the guys rockin' again as they sing out a powerful track that seems to have a slight resemblance to R.E.M.’s "Bang and Blame". Rob teams up with Brian Yale next for "You're So Cool", before taking centre stage again for another rock track, featuring Rob looking like his face is going to explode.
"So Sad So Long" kicks in with a catchy guitar riff that gets both Rob and the crowd jumping. As he takes to the front walkway, Rob greets his girly fans and sings along to the rock/country hybrid. "Long Day" brings back memories again from the first album. Whoa girls, whoa! Yea they love it alright; it doesn't need much of an introduction. The band give their all, Rob gets down on his knees and it looks like they're done.
It isn't quite over yet. Rob talks to the crowd for the last time and offers a piece of wisdom - "When you realise man, that when you get older the only thing that has any currency and worth anything in the world is your time and how you spend it. And on a Saturday night that's gotta be pretty f****** expensive". And so the guys finish up their gig with "Push", the phenomenal single that propelled them to stardom. This is a brilliant song to finish the proceedings with, a real goose-bump inducing moment that has both crowd and yourself singing along to.
The production values are brilliant, showcasing a giant stage with flashing lights that go blinky blink under the direction of Hamish Hamilton. The show is a completely involving experience that covers all angles of the 100-minute performance, showing us several viewpoints from both the audience and stage. Hamilton generates the excitement needed and closes in on every passionate effort from each of the band members.
The band is very appreciative of everyone around them and they show their appreciation for their crew and fans by staging a wonderful show. Rob Thomas is a fine showman and I mean no disrespect when I describe his actions. Rob gets enthusiastically into each of the songs, so much so that he ends up bobbing his head like a chicken from time to time before popping his eyes out and waiting for the veins in his neck to stick out while his face turns red. Kyle Cook, Adam Gaynor, Brian Yale and Paul Doucette have immense fun backing up their lead and each member gets their chance to shine. It’s a fine show that pays off for all the hard work that was put into it.
Coming Home Studios release their first DVD onto the market, boasting "state of the art" surround capabilities and fine extras.
"SHOW" is filmed on digital video and has been transferred to DVD with relative ease in an Anamorphic 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Clarity is just about pin sharp, with the only noticeable defect being slight grain. This could well be down to the source, rather than the DVD.
More details about the nature of the sound used for this recording can be found here:
SRS Labs Circle Surround
The DVD is apparently state of the art, utilizing SRS Circle Surround. For the sake of this review I made sure to view the feature with both tracks. Now in all honesty I found the 5.1 track to be quite disappointing as the channel separation wasn't very good. From the rear you can hear plenty of screaming whilst up front Rob's voice is slightly muffled, drowned out by the audience’s cries. Even when Rob stops to talk it is still difficult to make out what he is saying. I can understand wanting to make this a fully immersive experience but I don't want to be so immersed that all I can hear is screaming around me. As it is you can make out Rob and the band but it is very difficult to understand the lyrics.
Viewing it in 2.0 however proved to be a more worthwhile experience, offering clearer sound. This utilizes SRS Surround and does prove to be more rewarding, with better channel separation and crisp reproduction of Rob’s vocals. If you're going to watch it then do so in 2.0 and don't be fooled this time by the prospect of 5.1 surround being better.
Disc 2 features:
A selection of 31 black and white photographs, featuring behind the scenes shots of various band members.
Every lyric to every song featured in the concert line up. Each time you select to view a lyric you get taken to a black screen where they scroll up. There is no music to accompany them.
Multi-Angles "Soul" and "Bright Lights"
In the press release, we are given a different description of the multi-angle technology used. Supposedly there is a choice of four angles that you can view in miniature screens at the bottom of the main concert screen. What we end up getting is 6 angles to choose from that you can only cycle through individually. This becomes tedious and overall disappointing because it isn't quite as fancy as was promised.
This is an interesting and fun 50-minute feature. It takes us behind the scenes of their 2003 tour and features interviews with the band and various crew members, including manager Michael Lippman and tour manager, Eric Barret. Matchbox Twenty talk about working hard and how appealing to the fans is more important than the money. Their comments are genuinely all the more sincere though, they've made their money and have a great respect for their fan base. Seeing them with their fans is often sweet and the overall impression that this documentary gives is that these are a bunch of really nice guys.
On Disc one, press right on the main menu to find a hidden track. Here you will see Conan O'Brian's famous character Triumph the insult comic dog, voiced by Robert Smigel. For those who have never seen the Conan O'Brian show then the joke may be lost. I remember him from a few years back when NBC Europe used to play it. It's a decent extra and certainly has the band laughing their ass off.
Matchbox Twenty is a fine band of showmen who give 100% to each performance and the concert featured here is energetic and will more than please fans of their work.