Review: Rob Thomas at Kings Park, Perth, 2 March 2016
“We’re here to try and give you a great Wednesday night,” Rob Thomas assured us as he bounded onstage at Kings Park.
Dressed in skinny jeans and a navy blue long-sleeved button-up shirt, the Matchbox Twenty frontman was a boisterous ball of energy and didn’t slow down for almost the entire show.
Families with kids, casual picnickers and couples dressed as if they were going to the opera were seated happily side by side as Thomas got to work churning out the products of his 20-year hit factory.
Give Me the Meltdown, from 2009’s Cradlesong, was a good choice as an opener – the driving rock tune giving him the chance to warm up physically and vocally.
Thomas took a brief moment to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, drawing huge applause from the audience.
Clearly he’s been reading up on Australia’s indigenous culture since last week’s gaffe in Melbourne.
With a band that was just as animated as he was, there was so much going on that at times it was hard to know where to look – not that any of Thomas’ fans seemed to care.
They revelled in the familiarity of their favourite tunes, singing and waving their arms as the hits just kept coming.
Fallin’ to Pieces, from Thomas’ first solo effort Something to Be (2005), a fun shuffle with a nifty bassline, introduced us to the mean skills of bassist Al Carty.
Unfortunately for Carty, he would become a feature of the show for reasons he’d rather forget.
As Thomas launched into a cover of David Bowie‘s Let’s Dance, Carty’s sound was lost – causing the band to play in a holding pattern for a short time while the problem was fixed.
The cover itself was a great choice and a pretty faithful rendition, with the addition of a dirty guitar solo from guitarist Frank Romano.
The bass dropped out another couple of times during the show, but Thomas didn’t skip a beat and took it all in good humour – keeping us entertained along the way.
Her Diamonds was one of a series of ballads that featured Thomas’ backing singers echoing him gospel-style.
Unfortunately the complex full-band sound that works so well on the record didn’t quite hit the mark live, as Thomas’ voice got slightly lost amid the piercing treble of cymbals and guitars.
Thomas’ was at his best when he kept it simple, and his softer side was exposed as he performed Ever the Same accompanied by a lone acoustic guitar, sparse keys and a backup singer.
There was a smattering of tracks from Thomas’ latest album The Great Unknown, released late last year, including Heaven Help Me – about making peace with ageing (“I still party like a rock star but I can’t recover like a rock star,” joked the 44-year-old).
2009’s Someday, along with Matchbox Twenty hits 3am – performed as a piano ballad – and Bent, were highlights and the audience let him know it.
Mega-hit Smooth, his Grammy-winning collaboration with Santana, sent the crowd berserk.
Thomas ventured into the audience, getting up close and personal as he wrapped up the show with This is How a Heart Breaks.
Earlier, smoky-voiced balladeer Pete Murray serenaded Thomas’ fans – and many of his own – with a skilful set peppered with hits like Bail Me Out, Better Days and So Beautiful.
It’s not easy to go it alone after making it big with a band, but Thomas is a rare success story.
There’s no denying the man knows how to write a hit. But he’s also a consummate performer who puts absolutely everything into his performances.
You only had to look at the beaming smiles of those leaving the venue to know that Thomas had delivered on his promise of a great Wednesday night.