After 5 years away from Australian shores, Matchbox Twenty are currently making their way around the country on what is surprisingly their sixth Australian tour. Well it’s surprising to me, as I’m well and truly a Matchbox Twenty fan, but this was to be the first time I had seem the perform live. Supporting them throughout these Aussie shows are INXS and Evermore.
I always make it my mission to catch all the support acts and had certainly planned to get there in time for New Zealand natives Evermore, but regrettably tonight the planets were not aligned and I missed out on catching them. Who reading this saw Evermore? If so, feel free to add your own review in the comments at the bottom…
Fulfilling both photographer and reviewer duties tonight (it’s no easy task carting around a couple of cameras and a typewriter at a concert!) I had the enviable position of catching the first three songs up close and personal from front of stage, whilst also then retiring to my seat in the stadium to soak up the atmosphere. I think the question on everyone’s lips regarding INXS was – who is going to be singing for them tonight? Well if you had done your research, you would know that since September 2011, those shoes have been filled by Irishman, Ciaran Gribbin. A Grammy nominated songwriter who has worked with artists such as Snow Patrol, Madonna, Paul Oakenfold and Paul McCartney. If you didn’t know this, well strike a light, upon first glimpse, you could have sworn it was the Rockstar INXS winner J D Fortune creeping out from behind the drum kit to assume vocal duties once again. Speaking of drums, the opening few minutes of the INXS set featured a cacophony of drums courtesy of the brothers Farris, they being Tim, Jon, Andrew, before the band kicked into opening song Suicide Blonde. Hit the ground running with one of your biggest hits, now that’s the way to kick off a stadium gig, but then follow that up with What You Need and Original Sin, perfect! Filling the shoes of the irreplaceable Michael Hutchence can’t be easy, but the performance of Gribbin throughout tonight’s set covered the most important bases, at least for me – oodles of energy, a confident and commanding stage presence and lot’s of intimate crowd interaction where I’m sure the lucky girl(s) having lyrics such as “I need you tonight” sung to them, thought for that brief moment they were the only ones in the room…albeit with around 13,000 others.
The majority of tonight’s 70 odd minute set was made up of songs from the Kick album which this year celebrates it’s 25th anniversary. An album in which I’m super familiar, it was great to hear these songs performed live and performed super well – I mean the Farris brothers, Gary Beers and Kirk Pengilly have been playing together for well over 30 years now, so these guys are tight, super tight. However a head scratching moment in tonight’s set came when the couple of backing singers/dancers took the lead vocals on a couple of songs, Calling All Nations and Kick. It didn’t work for me having these girls take over on lead vocals, but maybe it worked for you? Above all, seeing INXS tonight, the important thing to remember is just how timeless these songs are still to this day. The likes of Kiss The Dirt, Don’t Change, Never Tear Us Apart, New Sensation, these songs are so engrained in our Aussie music heritage that I’m sure INXS fans Australia wide are just appreciative for the opportunity to be hearing them performed live in 2012, but preferably minus a couple of the cabaret/Glee type moments.
Hot on the heels of their fourth studio album North, in the days leading up this show, I had to keep reminding myself that this band of over 15 years, has only released four studio albums, with the gap between North and More Than You Think You Are being a considerable 10 years. Sitting in the photo pit waiting for the lights, camera, action moment to kick in, I was able to sneak a peek under the curtains of what was a considerably massive sized stage. Well, it was an arena show, but maybe it was the use of platforms and runways and huge video screens and lighting rigs that gave it an aura of enormity. During these moments of waiting, I made a bet with myself that they would open with a song off the new album, and sure enough, when the curtain dropped to reveal the band, they kicked into Parade, the opening track off North. Immediately, even whilst concentrating on photos, I couldn’t help but notice the amped up “rock” sound of Matchbox Twenty. Parade saw Rob Thomas with a guitar slung over his shoulder, which planted him front and centre for most of the opening song. Bent and Disease followed, with the latter using the lighting rigs to great effect, with the stage drenched in a sea of red…or is the cynical side of me thinking it was a farewell gift for us photographers…”see how many photos you can get out of this red light!” Leaving the photo pit, the immediately recognisable guitar intro of latest single She’s So Mean kicked in, just as I knew it would. I really wanted to see this song as I love it, but alas, the transition from photo pit to my seat put paid to that. Upon re-entering the stadium, I had enough time to sit down and get settled with beer in hand, in time for one of my favourite ever M20 songs, 3AM, which they followed up with Real World. With wall to wall of hits as they do, hearing a song like 3AM early on was probably inevitable and didn’t the crowd love this back to back pairing from their first album. A common theme during the whole night, it was the songs from Yourself Or Someone Like You, which seemed to generate the most gusto with crowd sing along.
The stage presence of Rob Thomas is interesting to observe, he certainly uses all the stage to great effect and along with his distinct way of emphasising words and phrases whilst singing, in the live environment we also get the facial expressions and body language to express the emotion of songs, such as on new track Overjoyed and If You’re Gone. Thomas doesn’t say a lot on stage in between songs, although he is a caring soul, asking many a time “how are you all doing tonight…” Well Rob, for some of us it’s been a Long Day and we are feeling a little Unwell….sometimes you’ve gotta be careful what you ask, but the crowd sure let him know in full voice during these songs, haha! Speaking of stage presence, guitarist Paul Doucette…he’s a little maniac and I mean that in the kindest way possible. His stage presence is every bit that of a drummer who has been unshackled from the drum stool and now has a full stage to run around….actually make that stadium, which he did towards the end of the set. Paul of course was the drummer in M20 once upon a time and on a number of occasions, he did revert back to his old position taking up the lead drum role, or even cameo drum banging at various intervals. By the way Paul, I hope that leg/face of yours is OK from when you face planted running up the aisles.
Lead guitarist Kyle Cook is the cool dude of the band, donning sunglasses for the entire set and having a suave, composed aura about him. Add to that a mighty fine singing voice, for which he unveiled with North track The Way, one of the set highlights for me, just because his voice worked so damn well with that song. Favourite song of the set was Bright Lights from the More Than You Think You Are album which in the live setting, turns into a musically intense track, with the ending well and truly confirming my earlier thoughts about how much of a “rock” sound Matchbox Twenty have live. Not that I doubted them to be a rock band, just probably wasn’t anticipating the volume and distorted sounds levels. Or perhaps I’m getting old? No never, but was I just commenting that Matchbox Twenty were almost to loud…I do empahsise the word almost!
Closing song Push was a fitting ending to what was a stellar performance from one of the biggest selling rock bands of the last 15 years. Over 30 million albums sold worldwide and a bevy of hit songs to unleash upon this highly appreciative crowd. Aside from finally getting to see them perform live, the highlight for me was hearing a bunch of new tracks off North which has really engrained the new album into the memory banks. It may have taken me until their sixth tour to go see them, but Matchbox Twenty certainly delivered on my expectations, a band of truly talented musicians, songwriters and performers.
Venue: Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Australia
Date: 20 October 2012
Supports: Evermore, INXS
Promoter: Live Nation Australia
Remaining tour dates:
CANBERRA AIS ARENA THURSDAY OCTOBER 25
BRISBANE ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE SATURDAY OCTOBER 27
BRISBANE ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE SUNDAY OCTOBER 28 2nd & final show!
SYDNEY ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE TUESDAY OCTOBER 30
SYDNEY ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 31 2nd & final show!
HUNTER VALLEY HOPE ESTATE SATURDAY NOVEMBER 3
WOLLONGONG* WIN ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE TUESDAY NOVEMBER 6 *Evermore not performing
ADELAIDE ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE THURSDAY NOVEMBER 8
PERTH PERTH ARENA SUNDAY NOVEMBER 11
TICKETS ON SALE NOW. For complete tour and ticket information, visit: www.livenation.com.au