Matchbox 20, Train, Old 97's
Tweeter Center, Tinley Park
Friday, August 3, 2001
You could feel the energy in the air at the Tweeter Friday night. People were dancing in the aisle to the music. The sky was clear, the temperature perfect . . . it was the night to be at an outdoor concert. Old 97's got people shaking early with a touch of punk, and then Train took the stage. Their set seemed as crucial to the crowd as the upcoming headliners — you could hear the audience singing along to Train's first hit "Meet Virginia," and later to their current single "Drops of Jupiter." In between songs, singer Pat Monahan (who proved he can play a low-voiced sax at one point) paced onstage from side to side, striking poses and laying down 45 minutes of mid-tempo feel-good rock, including a fun cover of Led Zeppelin's "Ramble On," which suits Monahan's higher pitched vocal range fairly well.
Once the Train curtain came down, the stage was set with a red carpet, backed up by three long video monitors. Above the main stage, a secondary stage was created for the drummer and keyboardist. Matchbox 20 took the stage in front of the monitors, which throughout the show ran a range of video footage, from images of clouds to scores of feet walking. Rob Thomas led the band through "Crutch" to open the set, and at the end of "Real World" took a handful of roses from his fans, carrying them Romeo-style between his teeth back to center stage. Thomas' voice seemed to occasionally get lost in the mix, especially early on in the show, but overall, the band sounded tight and looked to be having a good time as they jammed through "Bent," "Last Beautiful Girl," "Black And White People," and the funky "Mad Season," all from their latest disc, as well as "Real World," "Back To Good" and "3am" from their debut, Yourself Or Someone Like You. They even turned up the rock 'n' roll quotient and fudged their way through a rave-up run-through of The Black Crowes' "Remedy" in the middle of the set. Thomas showed a touch of humor as he looked around the stadium at one point and noted as he stared out at the masses of people in the audience, that their career had brought them to the huge venue of the Tweeter all the way from Schubas — and then he asked if anyone else thought "Tweeter" was a silly name for a music theatre. The crowd agreed enthusiastically.
A horn trio backed up the band for many of its songs from Mad Season, which rest on more complex orchestration than the Yourself Or Someone Like You songs. Thomas took to the upper stage for a couple songs to play a grand piano, including Mad Season's melancholy set-closer "You Won't Be Mine." At the end, he brought out a home video camera and taped the crowd, projecting the results on the main video displays for all to see.
Thomas wryly dedicated the encore to those who had already left, as he kicked through another cover (John Lennon's "Watching The Wheels") and a couple of Matchbox 20's biggest hits - "If You're Gone" and "Push."
Through it all, a bank of hanging lights that looked like small spaceships shifted positions and made geometric patterns above the band, giving the stage a variety of moods and, coupled with the video displays, an occasional sci-fi feel. At one point it looked like the UFO from Close Encounters was above the band! At the close of two hours, Matchbox 20 had played most of Mad Season in a solid set, and departed leaving the energized crowd wishing for more.