Matchbox Twenty and Counting Crows Light Up the Night in Charlotte
A Brief History of Everything Tour – Charlotte
Matchbox Twenty and Counting Crows revisited Charlotte and damn, it was even better the second time around! Well, technically last year we were privy to these two bands; as Rob Thomas without Matchbox Twenty, and Counting Crows and it was one hell of a good time. Last night was no different. The different shades of soccer moms, journalists, teeny-tiny new fans, and looking around the diversity in the stands was hard matched. Every walk of life graced the arena. The show, a near sell out, was held on one of the most humid days but from the seats there was a cool breeze aided by the new larger-than-life fans installed in the high ceilings of PNC Music Pavilion.
First up was Rivers and Rust, a new duo consisting of Kyle Cook and Sheila Marshall mashing the Tennessee and Texas vibe to make some rocking music – a funky twang over chiseled guitar. The layered vocals bellowed through the hot summers day. The chemistry was palpable and flowed out to the crowd. Many attendees I asked had not heard of them before tonight, but concluded they were interested in finding some more of their songs. The single “Welcome to the Show” is fitting and helped to prime the crowd for the rest of the show.
A band who has been around as long as this is Counting Crows almost need no introduction. Most notable hits off their album August and Everything After is “Mr. Jones” and on the Shrek soundtrack “Accidentally In Love,” and the unforgettable fan favorite “Round Here,” but everyone should fill in the band when putting together the night’s set list. It was truly missed. There is a hidden trinket on their 1996 release Recovering the Satellites “A Long December,” the delicate lyrical prose is the most connected I’ve felt with their music. Vocalist Adam Duritz, 53, said about the song: “It came to us in 6 takes on a long night after visiting a friend in the hospital for a month daily.” For myself, the song was the month and year the album came out that I had to deal with the loss of a late term pregnancy with my daughter. The lyrics “And it’s all about the oyster but no pearl, it’s been a long December” playing on my radio led to tears and healing. I could never thank the band enough for that. To this day every time the song plays, the tears start from the first stretch of the song until the conclusion.
The heat this night was exhausting under the immense lighting rig that stood behind the band; it was absolutely some of the most intricate lighting I’ve seen lately. Even in daylight it was stellar. Inevitably causing a heat storm toward the front of the venue and not lost on Duritz, he took some time to sit on speakers to dazzle the photographers and during “Goodnight Elizabeth” took some time to let the band get the spotlight and catch some air, while sitting on a perch right under the piano.
Chemistry with the band is nothing short of grand from twenty odd years of touring, writing, and living. The ambiance was a large family BBQ jamming and enjoying closing out the summer of 2017. Clean bright guitars. strings. piano and other gorgeous harmonies flowed through the crowd. He stood at times reserved with his hands in his pockets. It felt like a boy singing to a girl he likes and doesn’t know how to express himself. While the crowd hugged, hummed, and built to a scream, the lights bellowed out and the breeze hit us on the face cooling the muggy night air off. The most interesting point of the set was when they did a ragtime rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” with heavy acoustic guitars and the crowd livening up when they realized the song. It took a while, as did many of the songs and compositions almost unrecognizable until you hit the hook and then people would jump back into dancing mode. That is really a risk for a band; sometimes it makesthe set hard to connect with but I’m sure after performing the same songs for two decades, it should be forgiven and embraced.
And then it happened, the lights dimmed… and. I. Lost. My. Shit. Again. “A Long December” started and no matter the version I knew those first few notes. After I collected myself tonight, I realized they did remember to sneak in a partially off beat version of “Mr. Jones” in. Everyone lost their collective shit finally; it wasn’t just me! The crowds massive roar at the first few notes was surely thanks enough as in between and during most songs of the nights the fans were confused. The whole place shook with stomping and dancing and the song belted out over the arena.
A two song encore of “Palisades Park” and the final piece de triumph “The Rain King.”
It’s been five years since an original MB20 album by the five-time Grammy award nominated band, and some of us fans are patiently waiting. Is it time yet? While their 1993 release Yourself or Something Like You is one of the few critically acclaimed albums of that time, it’s something I still listen to quite frequently. The smart writing and catchy hooks hit you right in the chest. Crying and dancing is quite a strange mix, yet cathartic… so be it. The band is known for collaborations by front-man Rob Thomas, and while he isn’t shaking a tail feather with the likes of Santana on the 1999 hit “Smooth,” he is putting his pen-to-paper and writing number one hits for the likes of Marc Anthony and Mick Jagger. If that is not enough, there is a Matchbox 20 Foundation, which has worked with Make-A-Wish Foundation, Special Olympics, Rock Against Cancer, Best Buddies, and Art of Elysium in Los Angeles. Rob and his wife also created another non-profit, P Sidewalk Angels Foundation, which helps people in need in and around America’s big cities by partnering with various charities to assist people who cannot afford medical care, and animals that have been abandoned or abused. The accolades and actions in giving back are countless when it come to MB20. It’s an endearing quality to have and helps with the longevity of the band too.
Rob and troops stormed the stage, and with the blackness of the night surrounding the stage, a small back-light showed some shadows moving to and fro. We were listening to some of their faves from Ryan Adams, and don’t forget some “Jessie’s Girl” and Journey! The lights burst open and there it was… When the lights finally illuminated the stage, they jumped right on in with the first song on their very first album “Real World;” so fitting. They walked all over the stage, waving at fans and high-fiving at others that were lucky to be close enough. The lights pulsing to the rhythm and the small twang is heard blasting out into the great wide open. “Without someone else would this all fall apart, strange, where were you when we started this gig?” Another fun moment of my career was back in ‘96 I heard them on the dearest MTV glowing through the screen, demanding attention, and I’m lucky to have listened.
I stood here in 2017 singing my ass off in the seats. They pushed right into “Girl Like That,” and a once seated house was not sitting again. By the end of the third song, “She’s So Mean,” Thomas addressed the crowd standing: “We’ve got a lot to do so let’s not fuck around. Our time now is up to us. We could have a night where we come out play for you and you go home… We could do something different… Tonight isn’t about playing for you or playing for us, it’s about sharing this moment. This moment, not just watching a show. We could say live from NC. Are you with us?” The crowd erupted with screams and they set off on a tirade of hits from all of their albums and some trinkets fans weren’t expecting like “English Town.” The set list was diverse enough to hit all albums, and even sneak in their rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.”
You’d be remised to not equate this show with a strong workout regimens. As Thomas spun his mic stand around-and-around, I was waiting for him to drop and give me 20, sit-ups or push-ups. During part of the set, the guitarist came to the front and ripped into such a solo, it was like the heavens were coming to the stage via strings. Thomas told them to “Fuck it up!” (hence potty-mouth fun). The whole band are phenomenal on their own, but together they create this super-group that you just can’t stop watching. One song after the other, you hang on their every note yearning for more. The soulful backup vocals also add in that final little bit of heat needed to round out the perfect harmonies.
For a treat, like Thomas had done when he brought his solo tour to Charlotte, he brought out his 19-year-old son Maison to play his guitar with the band and while he seemed a bit shy, he added another flavor and impressed many, including other press in attendance.
I’m apt to encourage everyone to see a show as often as possible. I love to boast about great performances and downplay, honestly, a shit show sometimes, but if you have ever enjoyed our coverage and listened to my words – this is absolutely a show of the summer. Also, this is a great family tour and a perfect introduction to quality live music for a first show goer. So bring out the family, bring out the kids, grab a neighbor, find a stranger… Let’s jam!
And just like that four hours passed. We sweat buckets, we screamed ’til we lost our voice, we sang, we rejoiced, and we wept. Just another day in the life, and what a damn life it is. This was not just a concert. Charlotte was WITH YOU, and cannot wait until we get to do it again.
Fandamonium pic by Dianna Augustine
Full gallery of the night
Catch this tour: