As much as I embrace the label in a jaded attempt to disarm its pathetic sting, "hipster" doesn't really describe me. I listen to hundreds of musicians, scattered from every genre you can name (except ska, because fuck ska), but I never choose to like a band because they're obscure. Most of the time, I just like what I like, and sometimes that isn't cool. Case in point: my old preteen crush, Matchbox Twenty.
It's understandable if you don't like Rob Thomas and Co. They blossomed from the ashes of grunge, they're overplayed and overproduced, and the majority of their fans seem to be the "adult contemporary" crowd, which are those folks who buy jeans that are already torn, eat at Chili's because they like the bar, and read memoirs about ex-heroin addicts or cancer survivors.
Regardless, I still have a tongue-in-cheek love for Matchbox Twenty. I mentioned before that their 2000 album Mad Season is really great music for going through a breakup. In fact, two months ago, that was the only reason I agreed to cover this show, and now I wasn't too sure about it. Matchbox Twenty were my go-to band exactly 10 years ago, as a 13-year-old. Part of my desire to go this gig was to recapture whatever innocence I had before puberty had really run its course. Part of it was to get a little more closure on that relationship that I'm tired of talking about, you're tired of hearing about, but something still lingers there and it comes back to me in shadowlike moments.
I was slightly late to this show, because I guess having one opening act and starting on time doesn't mean they're gonna keep everyone waiting. I came in on a song I didn't recognize (I haven't given their last two albums much of a listen), but I was able to catch "Disease." This immediately brought me back to the time I played the song for my then 6-year-old brother, telling him this is what real rock 'n' roll is. How embarrassing.
Anyway, the stage was fucking amazing. There were these cube things with video screens and LED lights stringing the stage and abstract doodlings were flung all over the walls. It felt like I was watching a concert DVD, and I'm sure the footage could've been used for one. This was definitely an ode to high production values, and as much as I love lo-fi, static drenched DIY, at least this wasn't Maroon 5. The music and lyrics, while hard to swallow sometimes, are definitely more authentic than the majority of mainstream pop, and I think that's enough to give Matchbox Twenty a pass.
The show wasn't without its share of cheesiness. For example, a giant clock radio appeared on the screen, stuck at 2:57 a.m. I'm sure you can guess which song it counted down to. The pin-up girls during "She's So Mean" and the vague political notions of "How Far We've Come" didn't lend much credibility, but I'll forgive that, because that guitar ripped at me on songs like "All I Need" and "If You're Gone."
It was a healthy balance of new songs and old, and I have to say, I haven't outgrown this band. While much of their discography weighs in on sappy, dysfunctional relationships, their more mature, recent cuts like "Our Song" and "Overjoyed" are just damn good love songs. And you know, I agree with Paul McCartney on that one -- what's wrong with that?
I felt like "I Will" was the most sincere moment of the entire night. The lights were dimmed and you could feel that Mr. Thomas wasn't bullshitting. I say felt, because immediately after that, they played "Unwell," sans banjo, and this was absolutely mind-melting. The cubes became stars and the LEDs melted and it was fantastic.
You ever wish you could go back to relive your teenage years with the knowledge you have now? Well, I don't, but this was sort of like that anyway. It gave me a clearer picture of how far I've come from being the kid purposely ostracizing himself from women for fear of rejection to being the idiot who sabotages his relationships until the girls ostracize themselves from me.
"Push," their final song after the encore, really hit home as well, because I once put it on an apologetic mixtape for a girl. She didn't understand what I was trying to say with this track and always skipped it when we listened to the album in her car, but it was kind of like some bizarre, self-fulfilling prophecy. "I want to take you for granted." Well, congratulations, you idiot.
I did leave Comerica Theater feeling cathartic. I try not to dwell on my past and I'm definitely happier than I've been in months, but there's still these manicured-nail-shaped scars in places I can't reach. Alcohol, drugs, sex, religion, writing, and aimless drives to Tucson don't seem to scratch it.
Still, I'm doing well and I'm able to function with other women without bringing them down with "baggage," but then there's still moments when I pull open my desk drawer, looking for a flash drive, and find a ring staring back at me. For that, I don't know what I need. If Matchbox Twenty can give me some piece of mind, some kind of non-conventional therapy, then they're a fucking great band and I don't care what you say.
I'm sure that after writing a review like this many of you will scoff. Perhaps I'll need to turn in my indie cred now, but it's not like I knew what to do with it in the first place. I like what I fucking like and you can get over it. Matchbox Twenty isn't the coolest, most authentic band to ever live, but there is something about these guys you don't really find in a lot of other acts.
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Critic's Notebook: Last Night: Matchbox Twenty, Kate Earl at Comerica Theater The Crowd: Tons of beautiful women pushing 30 who would probably never talk to me if I approached them at a Scottsdale bar. I assume at least half of them are single. The ones that brought their boyfriends somehow made them look so fucking miserable. Overheard: Rob Thomas was sweating like crazy. He changed his shirt twice and then this girl was yelling "Take it off! Take it off!" Thank God Mr. Thomas didn't listen. If this was a Bon Jovi concert, I think I would have stabbed myself. Personal Bias: Well . . . Love sucks. How's that for bias? Set List: [...] - Bent - Disease - She's So Mean - How Far We've Come - 3 A.M. - Real World - Girl Like That - All I Need - If You're Gone - Our Song - Overjoyed - All Your Reasons - Long Day - I Will - Unwell - Radio - So Sad, So Lonely - Never Going Back Again - Bright Lights Encore: - Don't Change (Face To Face cover) - You're So Real - The Way (Kyle Cook sings) - Back 2 Good - Push