MATCHBOX TWENTY / ALANIS MORISSETTE
Sunday, March 9, 2008
General Motors Place
Vancouver, BC Canada
***Live Review & All Photos By Lord of The Wasteland
Call me crazy, but who knew Matchbox Twenty was so damn popular in 2008?
I had pretty much written the band off as a one-album wonder along the same lines as Third Eye Blind and bands like that after the gargantuan success of 1996’s YOURSELF OR SOMEONE LIKE YOU was followed up with the colossal flop, MAD SEASON, four years later. Rather than striking while the iron was hot, Rob Thomas and Co. did the unthinkable and let their debut fizzle away rather than duke it out with the emerging boy- and girl-band pop scene and the results were dismal. 2002’s MORE THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE (and a subsequent name change from Matchbox 20 to Matchbox Twenty) did little to put the Orlando natives back on the modern rock radar, leaving Thomas free to venture out on a successful solo trip in 2005. A revitalized spark saw the band get back together and hit the studio for six new songs as part of last year’s EXILE ON MAINSTREAM hits package and suddenly Matchbox Twenty, with Alanis Morissette in tow, is headlining ten-thousand seat arenas again.
While flashes of my days in university bounced through my head, it turned out it wasn’t 1996 after all as I hunkered down in the photo pit for Alanis Morissette’s hour-long set. Pulling six tracks from 1995’s breakthrough, JAGGED LITTLE PILL, Morissette appeared earthy and comfortable in black leather pants while displaying her still-impressive vocal range and unique delivery. Some may argue Morissette is somewhat of a one-album wonder herself—JAGGED LITTLE PILL is still the biggest-selling album of all-time from any female artist but further releases were considerably less successful—but the hit factor from that album remains impressive over a dozen years later (seriously, is there a single song from that record that wasn’t played on the radio at the time?). Every woman ever scorned sang along with conviction to Morissette’s “You Outta Know” while “Ironic” drew plenty of applause as the singer ad-libbed “It’s like meeting the man of your dreams and then meeting his beautiful…husband.” “Perfect,” Morissette’s greatest non-hit ever, embodies sad but true lyrics and “All I Really Want,” with its wocka-wocka guitar and harmonica sections is a twisted tale of female frustration. The epic swells of opener “Uninvited” saw Morissette morph from a stoic siren into a convulsing spasmic mess not unlike THE EXORCIST’s Regan MacNeil. Even “My Humps,” the hilarious parody of that dreadful The Black-Eyed Peas song, was given some airtime as Morissette came out in a pink boa before assaulting her bandmates and their ill-conceived attempts to woo her. Of the two new tracks previewed from Morissette’s upcoming album, FLAVORS OF ENTANGLEMENT, “Versions of Violence” with a deep bass groove really stood out.
Morissette, herself a proclaimed female empowerment icon at twenty years old when JAGGED LITTLE PILL was released, was in her element as the mostly-female audience fit squarely into the 25-40 year old demographic. The element of anger is clearly gone from Morissette these days as she is maturing into an exotic-looking woman in her mid-thirties who is clearly comfortable in her own skin. Morissette also seems content to not be the poster girl for jilted women around the globe anymore, but rather viewed as a musically-challenging artist with something interesting to say and it is clear she is still successful in that regard.
All I Really Want
Eight Easy Steps
Hand In My Pocket
Versions of Violence
You Oughta Know
As I wrote earlier, my affirmation of Matchbox Twenty’s material pretty much ceased after YOURSELF OR SOMEONE LIKE YOU. Sure, “Bent,” “Unwell” and “If You’re Gone” rang clear once the choruses kicked in, but for the most part, this was virgin territory for me. Truth be told, the band’s tepid, mid-paced modern rock always seemed too “safe” for my liking. It was as if they wanted to break free of the formula a bit but were scared to take the chance and isolate their core audience. Fortunately for me, the eight thousand or so screaming women in attendance made it abundantly clear which songs to take notice of. The new songs, five of which were played live, came across surprisingly well. “How Far We’ve Come” sports an unforgettable, bouncy chorus, while “I’ll Believe You When,” Thomas’ song about marriage, is equally catchy. Both seem thoroughly modern and are quite good. Most surprisingly, Matchbox Twenty’s two hour set didn’t rely on the umpteen hits—and they were all here including “Real World,” “Long Day,” “3 A.M.,” and “Push”—from YOURSELF OR SOMEONE LIKE YOU, either. In fact, MORE THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE received the lion’s share of space with eight songs featured. “So Sad, So Lonely,” a hidden track at the end of that album, really stood out as a fresh, unbelievably catchy song that stayed in my head long after the band left the stage. Tossing in excellent covers of The Beatles’ “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” and Cracker’s “Low,” I have to say that my respect for this band definitely kicked up a notch. Not only that, seeing various members drift from instrument to instrument–as well as sing–demonstrated that these guys have some musical chops behind them, as well.
How Far We’ve Come
If I Fall
Could I Be You
I’ll Believe You When
Back 2 Good
If You’re Gone
Hand Me Down
So Sad, So Lonely
All Your Reasons
These Hard Times
She Came In Through The Bathroom Window (Beatles cover)
Low (Cracker cover)
That being said, Matchbox Twenty has no business whatsoever playing for two hours. Three albums of material is not enough to fill that much time and the middle third of the show really suffered through this. Diehard fans of the band—and believe me, there were many there—seemed oblivious in their nirvana-like euphoria, but setlists of that length should be reserved for the elder statesmen of music, and Matchbox Twenty, despite the cool, light-up backdrop and big-budget production, certainly does not fall under that umbrella.
Also, Alanis Morissette clearly deserved, at the very least, a co-headlining spot as her limited time on stage cut out all but one song (“Thank U”) from the devilishly-underrated SUPPOSED FORMER INFATUATION JUNKIE and all of UNDER RUG SWEPT (the less said about 2004’s SO-CALLED CHAOS the better). “So Pure,” “Joining You” and “Hands Clean” were noticeable omissions that should have been played.
Still, this was an enjoyable night of hit-and-miss material that rekindled more than a few memories of my twenties, slogging it out over term papers and late-night crunch sessions with post-grunge rock warbling away in the background. That Matchbox Twenty, Alanis Morissette and I have made it this far relatively unscathed but with worlds of wisdom under our belts is a testament to the staying power of popular music. And thirteen years later, I didn’t even need to seek out the Wayback Machine of Mr. Peabody and Sherman to relive it.
***Thanks to Jessica at Live Nation for the press pass.