I don’t like to pick apart things I like. That’s why I’ve never put much thought into what makes a great concert experience. (I know — some music writer I am.) Some nights it just happens, you know? The music’s incredible, the energy’s just right, and you bask in the communal warmth that comes from watching a great band with thousands of strangers who, by the end of the night, aren’t strangers anymore — they’re the only other people in the world who understand what you’ve just experienced. Afterwards, when tasked with putting it into words, you can only go all starry-eyed and say, “Dude. It was amazing.”
That’s about where I’m coming from with my review of the Matchbox 20/Goo Goo Dolls show at the not-long-for-this-world Gibson Amphitheatre Wednesday night. As you may recall from my Featured Artist double-bill a couple of weeks ago, I’m a fan of both bands, but far from a superfan — in fact, I’m a bigger fan of Rob Thomas’s Twitter musings than anything. Let me humbly say that I wasn’t giving either band enough credit. There’s a reason they’ve both been famous for almost twenty years.
You’d think growling like a Top 40-style Axl Rose for over 25 years would’ve taken a toll on Goo Goo Dolls’ frontman Johnny Rzeznik’s voice — not a chance, son. Although he was relieved fairly often by GGD bassist and vocalist Robby Takac — who is a great singer in his own right, reminding me a lot of Soul Asylum frontman Dave Pirner — on songs like “Another Second Time Around” and “Bringing on The Light,” Rzeznik sounded all but freaking ageless throughout the band’s hit-filled set. As you can see, he doesn’t look too shabby, either. Fellas, take note: this is what 47 should look like.
I particularly enjoyed Rzeznik sharing the story of how he knew he’d made it big: strolling through the supermarket late one night after the release of A Boy Named Goo, he heard the first unmistakable notes of “Name” over the PA. “Fuck,” he realized, “we’re Muzak!”
“Name” and all of the other big GGD hits were represented, including “Iris,” “Slide,” “Black Balloon,” “Here Is Gone,” and “Broadway,” as well as songs “Come to Me” and “Rebel Beat” from Magnetic, the band’s latest album. And of course, what would a Goo Goo Dolls show be without their cover of Supertramp’s “Give A Little Bit,” including a killer saxophone solo? (Did you really think I’d make it through this review without a Supertramp reference?) “Anyone who’s under 30 thinks we wrote that song. So I don’t say shit about it,” Rzeznik joked.
As much as I enjoyed the Goo Goo Dolls, the night truly began when Rob Thomas and Matchbox 20 took the stage. I’m just going to come right out and say that Rob Thomas is easily one of the best frontmen I’ve ever seen. His voice is utterly impeccable, but even more awesome is the raw charisma on that guy. “Just think of us as the house band to your good time,” he told us, and we were off on a 19-song set whose energy never faltered from start to finish.
As a seasoned attendee of maturing bands’ shows, I was impressed by how enthusiastic fans were about the band’s newer material. Instead of showing the usual polite, watch-glancing tolerance for newer songs while some drunken idiot yells “’PUSH’!! PLAY ‘PUSH’!!”, fans were screaming along to “She’s So Mean,” “Our Song,” and “English Town,” all from the band’s 2012 album, North. It helps that the songwriting holds up — their newer material sounds just as fresh as “Push” did in 1996. There’s really no doubt that Matchbox 20 is as big as ever.
Honestly, I feel like a complete choad for not recognizing sooner what a force of nature Rob Thomas and Matchbox 20 are. Their catalog of hits, including “Bent,” “Push,” “Long Day,” “Bright Lights,” “Mad Season,” “Back 2 Good,” “3 AM,” “Real World,” “How Far We’ve Come,” and “Disease,” never sounded more electrifying. And as I’d hoped, the bands complemented each other perfectly. I left Gibson Amphitheatre — for the first and likely last time — one satisfied customer, and immediately Tweeted giddy fangirl love to Rob Thomas. Don’t judge me.
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