A mixed crowd of fans, young and old, assembled into Durham’s Performing Arts Center and erupted into boisterous, unison applause for Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Rob Thomas as he took the stage and began to croon, “Don’t you wanna go for a ride/Just keep your hands inside”, the opening lines of his debut, breakaway hit, “This Is How A Heart Breaks”. Attending the concert and placed in the 14th row located in downtown Durham, NC (many thanks again to Suzanne Gold for the accommodations), I was able to fully embrace the elegance of a theater venue bolstered by the pulsating vibe of a concert, while still managing to maintain the intimacy of the performance.
Despite having achieved worldwide success with his band, alternative all-star act Matchbox Twenty, and experiencing continuing critical acclaim when he branched out as a solo artist in 2005, Rob Thomas described himself as “not quite fitting in” whilst growing up in South Carolina & Florida. To compensate, he learned to play the piano, initially employing the songs of soul crooner Lionel Ritchie in order to impress girls (a chance encounter with the musician later once his own career had blossomed, led to him admitting this fact to his musical idol who replied, “me too”), despite having no idea of what love was. At the age of 14, he began writing his own songs, eventually penning the single that made Matchbox Twenty, “3AM” (the lyrics being inspired by his own adolescence of living with a mother who was diagnosed with cancer when he was 19).
Now at the age of 42, Thomas muses on his expertise of relationships (when his wife Marisol was cold or thirsty during the initial stages of their marriage, he would go and get her a blanket or glass of water, thus earning self-appointed “Husband of the Year honors”) and age specific hangouts (the local haunts being named bars when he was in his 20’s, presently fashioned as clubs, and anticipation of them undergoing re-branding as lounges when he reaches his 50’s). With the mention of his wife and his statement of having been married for 15 years, he delved into a story of how when he met a banana colored suit wearing Carlos Santana (with whom he collaborated on the single “Smooth”), the legendary Mexican musician inquired as to the nationality of his wife, commenting that he knew she must have been either Spanish & Puerto Rican after he confirmed she was a mixture of both, based off the line from the song, “I could change my life to better suit your mood”. To Carlos, only a woman of either of those descents could warrant such a devoted pledge.
Another story featured a musical guest cameo from Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger (co-writer of the Matchbox Twenty song “Disease”) who once left a voice message on his home answering machine that has subsequently been played back to visiting friends for “Superstar friends” bragging rights. At one point after completing a song, members of the crowd began shouting what they’d like Rob to perform next, to which he responded, “This is not request hour, this is shut up and listen hour”, showcasing the singer’s signature sarcasm and how engaging your audience can be just as entertaining for the performer as it is for the patrons attending. As amusing as the shtick was, there was a genuine sincerity in the tale he recounted of the look his dog Tyler gave him whilst walking him one day, provided the inspiration for the song, “Lille Wonders” (used in the film “Meet The Robinsons”) and his ardent belief in not letting those moments go by unnoticed and unappreciated.
Featuring a set list of perennial Matchbox Twenty hits intertwined with a few of his own, Thomas revealed that he is currently in studio working on a new solo album (due out early next year) and that the genesis for doing this tour was to clear out his head from the process and test out some new music for placement on the album. I, for one will wait in anticipation to see what’s and as sappy as this may be, for the boy who didn’t fit in and felt distant from his surrounding populace, to Mr. Thomas I would say, look at how far you’ve come.
Remaining tour dates are listed below, but for further info please visit http://www.robthomasmusic.com/
May 2 – Bethlehem, Pa., Sands Bethlehem Event Center
May 3 – Morristown, N.J., Mayo Performing Arts Center
May 5 – Huntington, N.Y., The Paramount
May 6 – Red Bank, N.J., Count Basie Theatre
May 7 – Red Bank, N.J., Count Basie Theatre
May 9 – Uncasville, Conn., Mohegan Sun Arena
May 10 – Niagara Falls, N.Y., Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel
May 11 – Windsor, Ontario, Caesars Windsor “The Colosseum”
Lamarr Fowlkes is a Welsh bred, Raleigh, NC based event reviewer for Triangle Arts & Entertainment. A Spring 2015 enrollee at UNC-Asheville majoring in International Studies, Lamarr will continue to provide Triangle arts and entertainment event based reviews when not attending to his studies. To read more of Lamarr’s reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click https://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/lamarr-fowlkes/For more thoughts and opinions, follow https://twitter.com/ChuckWag