Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rob Thomas at The Fox

I love every chance to go to the Fabulous Fox Theater in Atlanta, from rainy Saturday afternoons of my childhood playing make believe with sisters and friends in its exotic spaces while we were supposed to be watching Doris Day and Rock Hudson elevate dysfunction, to stage plays and concerts and one silent film accompanied by orchestra. I've never had a bad time at The Fox.

The Youngest graciously accepted my invitation to come along, and we met up with some friends of his before the concert, first at their beautiful Ansley Park home and then at Livingston in the Georgian Terrace. It was great to see this iconic hotel's jawdroppingly beautiful transformation, even if I was sorry to miss Carolina Liar and the first part of One Republic. We don't get things just right every time, and the opportunity to get to know the friends I'd heard so much about was worth it.

Thomas opened with "Fire on the Mountain" and to a standing, singing audience's obvious adoration and quickly thanked everyone for choosing to be there, recognizing the value of time and resources spent, pledging to give everything he had to make the experience worth it. It sounded real and he lived up to it. Alternating between the keyboards and guitar reminds us he's the musician behind the sound, but we are there to hear him sing his words, words about beauty in our broken places, about our imperfect struggle to connect with others and ourselves, words about joy and pain.

There was a wonderful feature article by Erik Hedegaard in the August 6th issue of Rolling Stone, "Confessions of an Unapologetic Pop Star" subtitled, "How did Rob Thomas survive a violent redneck childhood to become one of the top songwriters of his generation?" It goes a long way towards explaining the angst and points out how unfairly he's been stereotyped. Unfortunately, they've removed the content from the online edition, so if you want to read it, I guess you'll have to go to the library. How weird is that?

He played a hearty seventeen song setlist of tunes from Something To Be and Cradlesong (plus Little Wonders), before his Matchbox Twenty bandmates, Paul Doucette, Kyle Cook and Brian Yale joined him on stage for two songs for the highly aroused crowd. Just as his words speak to the complexities and nuances of human being and interaction, his expansive relationships with his former bandmates teach by example. Rob Thomas and Matchbox Twenty are not mutually exclusive, and if one eclipses the other, neither is less for that. We should all embrace growth so magnanimously. It made me want to go listen to Paul Doucette's current work for The Break and Repair Method.

Thomas closed with a beautiful, haunting version of "Smooth", like I've never heard and that I couldn't find anywhere online, followed by "This is How a Heart Breaks", ending too abruptly. It felt like no encore, felt weird. I know now that the whole thing was an encore from the time MB20 came on stage, and that their arrival sort of interrupted what would have been the concert's end, so it just felt like no encore. Sometimes I'm easily confused. This did lead to an interesting conversation about encores in general, and what they mean, and whether or not this is something an audience earns or something to which an artist is obligated, but I digress (sort of).

Here's some homemade video from the Matchbox Twenty portion of the concert. The Youngest mentioned during the show that Thomas takes the red plaid shirt to a whole new level. I expect we'll see more vids of the show as time passes. From our seats towards the back there was a sea of cellphones held high all the way to the stage.

So, maybe Thomas isn't edgy or cool, but I don't really care. There are folks in this world for whom being cool is easy, who saunter through their days certain and secure, free of anxiety and self-doubt. Rob Thomas is for the rest of us.


I thank @brenyb from Twitter for convincing me not to sell the tickets, for linking the above video, for pointing out the Rolling Stone piece and providing a copy of it, sending me the set list, and helping me embrace my inner groupie geek. Maybe I'll do it again. Maybe next time I'll have better seats, take pictures, take notes and write a proper review. Maybe next time will be December 5th in Biloxi. You just never know.