It’s been six long years since Rob Thomas graced us with a solo tour. That time around he was promoting his sophomore solo album Cradlesong and the heavens opened up, making Hope Estate a soggy muddy mess. Yesterday couldn’t have been more different, a steamy summer’s day that made me worry about getting burned even with a wide-brimmed hat and healthy helping of 50+ sunscreen. Those weather extremes aren’t ideal for an outdoor show, but when I know Rob Thomas will soon be in front of me I’m always willing to grin and bear it.
But first I had to make it through Pete Murray. I don’t know what it is about Pete Murray. He’s a good-looking guy who sings folky acoustic guitar driven music. On paper, he’s exactly what I like. However, I’ve just never been able to engage with him. Probably those moments anticipating a performance from my very favourite singer in the world weren’t the ones I’d suddenly develop an appreciation for Pete. I will say that he performed very well. He joked about the men a little less reluctant to embrace his set, and encouraged them to sing along as well. He sounded just as he does on the radio and he has a really tight band. His lead guitarist was particularly impressive. He played all the hits, although hearing them one after another only reinforced my idea that his music is a little samey. I couldn’t fault what he did. It just still wasn’t for me.
Rob Thomas on the other hand …
I wondered whether in a week that was sadly shrouded in controversy I could expect the same energy and fun from Rob, but as he burst out with “Give Me the Meltdown,” a high-energy number from Cradlesong. It left no doubt that we were all there to have a good time, and that’s just what we did. In fact, I think I might have had the most fun I’ve ever had at a Rob Thomas show, and believe me there have been a few. Rob kept the energy up with “Fallin’ to Pieces,” “Lonely No More,” and “Her Diamonds.” I marvelled at the song choices, a wonderful mix of the numbers everyone knew and the tracks near and dear to the heart of the fans who buy the albums.
A stripped back, raw performance of “Ever the Same” had me choked up. It was as near to perfection as I think I’ve ever heard. “Pieces,” another ballad and one of the rare songs from the new album The Great Unknown to make the set, was so powerful. His lively cover of “Let’s Dance” was a fitting tribute to Bowie. “Streetcorner Symphony,” with its lyrics of being there for one another, sisters and brothers of every different colour, was the most delightful way of putting all of the media muckraking to rest.
Rob’s banter with the crowd might have got him in trouble last week, but he wasn’t about to stop giving of himself that way. I love that. For me it’s the stories that make a concert. Moments like hearing about the admiration he has for his wife’s strength, and how that inspired him to write the album’s title track, “The Great Unknown.” Moments like listening to him speak about living in the moment and appreciating the beauty in it, even if it’s something as seemingly insignificant as standing around while your dog defecates, made a song like “Little Wonders” resonate a little more deeply.
There’s a line in that song that says “I cannot forget the way I feel right now.” Standing there, watching my very favourite singer, a person who has such a special place in my heart, I thought about just how I felt, how wonderful that very moment was.
You know the best thing about it all though? For the last few tours I’ve scaled back my concert activities. When I was in my late teens and early 20s, I’d always see two or three shows on Rob’s solo or Matchbox Twenty tours. Then I got older and married and reasoned I needed to be responsible, that I had other priorities in my life. I was still committed to this notion until Rob announced a State Theatre show. The allure of seeing my favourite singer in such a small venue was so strong that I snapped up tickets.
So as I watched the show last night, there was none of that sadness I usually get, because this tour’s not over for me. Tomorrow night I get to do it all again, with Rob playing a more intimate, stripped back set, so he informed us. I am so thrilled that this concert high gets to last a little longer. Rob’s going to have to pull out something special to top last night’s gig, but I’m sure he’s up to the task.
Image source: own photos