NEW YORK, NY—Valentine’s Day 2008 certainly was a magical night. I had the ability to witness Matchbox Twenty light the Garden on fiyah with the warmth they have rekindled since reforming late last year. The killer support from Alanis Morissette and Mute Math—with the fact that each artist opened with my current favorite songs as of late—was just icing on the cake.
Mute Math opened the night with “Chaos,” and to say the least, blew me away. Matchbox and Morissette have been around for over a decade each, but to find a truly talented band that has formed within the last five years is straight up difficult and very jading. The quartet from New Orleans, who formed in 2003, encompass meaningful, melodic and beautiful songwriting, with talented musicianship and a handsome front man whose emotionally driven voice sometimes emits reminders of Bono. He goes by Paul Meany, and as you watch him, it’s almost as if he pulls you on stage with him. He crouches over his piano, caresses his microphone and plays his “romantic” keytar, making you absorb every note and every word. I spent three songs only feet away from him, and although I anticipated that time to fly by, it was almost as if Meany purposely slowed down time, keeping our eyes and ears glued to him just as long as he wanted. Drummer Darren King was placed up front with everyone else, just over to the right of Meany, guitarist Greg Hill, and bassist Roy Mitchell- Cárdenas, which I found refreshing. Drummers, especially good ones, should never be hidden. They are the core and the backbone of every band.
When it was Morissette’s time to shine, her voice could be heard, but she could not be seen, driving the audience wild. She soon strode onto the stage to open with “Uninvited,” the haunting song from City Of Angels. When watching and listening, the first words that came to mind were “intense” and “energetic.” The Grammy-award-winning Canadian songstress flew back and forth from one side of the stage to the other, belting out songs with the greatest of ease, and jamming on her harmonica. As she presented hit after hit, including “Ironic,” “You Oughta Know” and “Hand in My Pocket,” she never failed to interact with her animated band—that shined even on their own— and continued to prove just how uniquely talented she is.
I knew something amazing must have been in the works for Matchbox Twenty as I was smothered by a large curtain in the photo pit for close to 20 minutes before their set. Soon a line of gentlemen stood before me, ready to hoist up the curtain. As it rose, a screen of lights appeared, and Johnny Cash’s voice singing “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” echoed before the opening beat to “Let’s See How Far We’ve Come” erupted from the stage, though a human body could not yet be seen. Soon the screens rose and there the Orlando rockers appeared. I could breathe a sigh of relief.
Yes, Matchbox Twenty are officially whole again, and though they are less one original member, drummer-at-heart Paul Doucette has (near literally) danced his way on to acoustic guitar, and Ryan McMillan is keeping Doucette’s drum seat and the groove warm in the “church of Ryantology.” Kyle Cook is still on electric guitar, Brian Yale on bass and Rob Thomas is manning the vocals with more raw emotion and faultless rhythm than ever.
Their extensive list of hits sometimes goes forgotten; I counted at least eight or nine throughout the night. Included were: “Bent,” “3am,” “Push” and “Disease.” As I was leaving that night, my “plus one” said to me, “I didn’t realize how many good songs they have!” But their hits aren’t their only good material, hence why their shows flow so well and are able to last two hours without fault. And through it all, Thomas even took a minute to look down and check on his bodyguard, questioning, “How ya doin’ Jason?” I think I could see him blush from my seat.
Let’s not forget the fact that it was Thomas’ birthday. “Fifteen thousand people singing in 15,000 keys; that is love!” he stated warmly, with a stitch of sarcasm. Everyone in the room had just finished singing “Happy Birthday” to him as he stood in front of a large cake, which minutes earlier had been wheeled out by his beautiful wife Marisol, who was wearing a sparkling silver dress. “I don’t think we can top that…” he concluded. “Thank you, good night!”
As a birthday present, the guys unexpectedly went into Thomas’ solo hit “Streetcorner Symphony,” completely surprising him. They closed their set (before an encore of “Push,” “Unwell” and “Argue”) with a medley of “Bright Lights” and The Beatles’ “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window,” which they were obviously more than excited to play. After all, why wouldn’t they be?
Photo Credit: Olivia Taubner