By Jenn Day Thompson
Anyone who was around in the 1990s has likely heard of Rob Thomas and his band Matchbox Twenty. The group epitomized the pop rock sound and style of the decade. I became a fan the first time I heard their single “Push”. This was back when a music video could make or break a song.
I watched the countdown almost every day after school, and the first time I saw Rob Thomas and his band in the top ten, I was hooked.
“Push” wasn’t the band’s first single. “Long Day”, another winner in my opinion, was actually the first single they released. The album Yourself or Someone Like You put Matchbox Twenty on the map with numerous hit singles that made the top 40 charts. It would be tough to argue, whether you liked them or not, Matchbox Twenty wasn’t a major influencer of the 90s.
Years ago I posted on social media about how excited I was to travel to Tampa from Jacksonville to see Matchbox Twenty in concert. I had seen them at least five times already, and when they resurfaced for a new tour I was over the moon. Goo Goo Dolls were set to open the show. An old friend from high school commented on my post and joked that the show would have been cool if the year was 1997. In addition to the eye roll the comment elicited from me, it also prompted me to consider how relevant the statement is to how we view music today.
So much of the music industry is focused on what’s hot this minute, and who might be hot tomorrow. I’ve been to shows at arenas, sitting in the upper level where you can barely see the artist you came to hear, and the music begins. The sound is poorly balanced, but no one seems to notice that the artist is off key (likely because they can’t hear themselves) because of all the fireworks and circus acts going on behind the person singing. Sometimes, the artist isn’t even singing, just performing to a vocal backing track.
Money is a valuable commodity for me these days. If I spend $70 on a concert ticket, I want to know that I’m going to get a quality show. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen Matchbox Twenty perform. I’ve also been to a few solo shows Rob Thomas has done. Not once have I been let down.
There are no blinding pyrotechnics, just Thomas twirling his microphone stand like a baton and jumping off platforms on stage while belting out the hits. The band’s sound is authentic and Thomas’ song writing continues to deliver depth while remaining relatable to the audience. Lyrics like, “There’s an awful lot of breathing room but I can hardly move,” get me down deep in my core because they so artfully describe real life situations I’ve found myself in.
Maybe this is why, after 23 years, I still jump out of my seat when I hear that Matchbox Twenty is touring. The band doesn’t try to keep up with the times and the current popular sound. They do what they do best. Thomas has joked in numerous interviews about how “uncool” he and his bandmates are. He started as a songwriter and, even after achieving fame, he didn’t stop writing. Their 90s pop rock sound may be what landed them spots in the countdowns each week, but Thomas’s enduring commitment to songwriting and the band’s refusal to alter their sound to keep up with the times is what continues to draw huge crowds of fans to shows decades later.
I’m no music snob. I work out to Britney Spears, and “Ice, Ice Baby” is often the first song I crank up when I hop in the car for moms’ day out. I love Nelly, Pearl Jam, Madonna, Vince Gill, and so many other old and new age classics. I’ve seen Metallica, Disturbed, Korn, Tool, Backstreet Boys, Miranda Lambert, and countless other bands in concert that span nearly every genre. I love music that makes me feel something, whether it makes me feel like dancing or crying.
Matchbox Twenty is coming to Daily’s Place here in Jacksonville on tour on August 9, 2020. The Wallflowers will also perform.
As long as the band continues delivering on their promise to stay true to what makes them who they are as a group, I’ll continue posting my concert pics and rolling my eyes at anyone who argues that the show is uncool. Matchbox Twenty doesn’t have to be cool, because they’re good.
Jenn Day Thompson performs as violist and vocalist with her sister Rebecca Day as The Crazy Daysies. Jenn’s articles have been published in a number of media, and she enjoys co-writing songs with her sister.
Jenn and Rebecca perform throughout the South in many different types of venues; their music is featured on a number of radio stations and streaming services like Spotify.
(Feb. 6, 2020)
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