Photo and Story by Scott Smith
First-night blips were banished as Matchbox Twenty rocked the house via a loud, wonderfully long set list Jan. 29 in Tulsa.
The popular band launched its world tour at a sold-out show at The Joint inside the Tulsa Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, and the gig thrilled long-time fans and shushed any nay-sayers. Lead singer Rob Thomas, guitarists Kyle Cook and Paul Doucette, bassist Brian Yale, keyboardist-guitarist Matt Beck and touring drummer Stacy Jones all sounded spectacular, merging their high-volume efforts into an ensemble sound that was edgy yet melodic, and fierce with a purpose.
“Parade,” the lead-off song of Matchbox Twenty’s most recent album, “North,” kicked off the concert as the spot-on group played under dim, colorful lighting. Appearing somewhat serious, Thomas hit all the right notes, his voice sounding fresh and strong for the opening-night celebration. “Bent” met the multi-generational audience next on a full-tilt note, followed by “Disease” and the recent single, “She’s So Mean.”
Donning glasses, a neighborly grin and tall, cool-cat hair, Cook got two stabs at the lead-vocal mic, giving Thomas a short break to play piano and rest his voice. Cook sang “The Way,” and he also gave Faces fans a friendly shock by leading Matchbox Twenty through part of Faces’ “Stay With Me.” Yale churned out that stop-and-start, oh-so-majestic bass line created by the late, always-missed Ronnie Lane, and Cook barked out Rod Stewart’s sassing vocal parts as fans danced and cheered.
Other cuts played included “Girl Like That,” “3 A.M.,” “If You’re Gone,” “Unwell,” “Overjoyed,” “I Will” and “So Sad, So Lonely.” For the band’s post-grunge anthem “Real World,” Cook played that crucial electric-guitar lick perfectly while Thomas playfully strutted and twirled his microphone stand.
One of the numerous high points was witnessing all of Matchbox Twenty’s members handling multiple instruments, all while being lighted and shadowed by an amazing, jaw-dropping light show. Thomas played guitar and piano, Yale played keyboards, Beck played lap-steel guitar and Doucette bounced between guitar, drums and a stand-alone rack of floor toms.
Dressed in a white jacket, white pants and a dark T-shirt, Doucette — he’s affectionately called “the Reverend Paul Doucette” by the band and its crew — thrashed out hefty rhythm guitar parts. At times, Doucette pounded the floor-tom set so hard that several people thought the drum sticks or drum head surely will break.
The stoic Doucette also proved that he hasn’t lost his trap-set skills when he relieved Jones for two songs; Jones himself played rhythm guitar and a snare drum when Doucette commanded the drum set.
Mid-way through the evening, Thomas introduced the band, and gave an extra-loud shout out to Jones.
“This is the newest member of this traveling circus we have here,” Thomas said while pointing to Jones, who hails from Tulsa and also is a multi-instrumentalist and singer for the band American Hi-Fi. “He’s from right down the road, so give it up for him!”
The audience roared its approval before being treated to top-shelf takes of “The Way,” “English Town” and “Bright Lights.” When the encore came — Matchbox Twenty’s two-hour main set flashed by in what seemed like 45 minutes — “Sleeping at the Wheel” was heard first, followed by the adrenaline session that is “Put Your Hands Up.” “Back to Good,” “You’re So Real” and a perfect version of “Push” closed the stellar concert.
Even if Matchbox Twenty trims the opening-night’s set list for the remainder of the tour, fans still need to catch this six-man band in person. Sure, Thomas’ duet with Carol Santana, “Smooth,” naturally wasn’t included, but the show still has those four magical ingredients for a concert worth witnessing — a great, sweaty effort from the band, wonderfully balanced sound, a bullet-proof set list and a light show that’s not too far removed from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”