Friday, July 19, 2013

Matchbox Twenty, Goo Goo Dolls concert review: Los Angeles

My review originally appeared at

photo by Armando Brown
Package tours centering on bands that came to fame in the '90s seem to be more plentiful than usual this time of year.

Jaunts with seasonal titles like the Last Summer on Earth (featuring Barenaked Ladies and Ben Folds Five), Under the Sun (Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth) and Summerland (Everclear, Live) have all passed through Southern California recently.

Meanwhile, The LP Tour, featuring Soul Asylum, Matthew Sweet and more performing breakthrough albums in full, happens Saturday at the Wiltern in Los Angeles.

Unlike some of those acts, however, the concert pairing of Matchbox Twenty and Goo Goo Dolls is a more relevant proposition, in terms of both current sales and chart success.

North, the Rob Thomas-fronted quartet's first full-length studio album in a decade, entered the Billboard 200 chart at No. 1 last fall and has spawned three Top 20 hits on the adult rock tally. Meanwhile, the Goos' latest effort, Magnetic, just made an impressive debut, bolstered by a single that's getting ample airplay.

Despite attaining massive success at roughly the same time (1995-98), these bands hadn't toured together until now. On Thursday night at Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City, ahead of appearances in Las Vegas (Friday), Irvine (Saturday) and San Diego (Wednesday), they both turned in solid performances that proved why their well-crafted pop/rock music is still among the most memorable from that period.

Matchbox Twenty, back on stage after five years, brought eye-catching visuals – courtesy of three large overhanging projection cubes – to their 90-minute set. Loud screams from female fans greeted their opening cut, the sweeping mid-tempo ballad "Parade." The first of six impressive new songs played from North, it was propelled by bleached-blond guitarist Kyle Cook's chiming sounds.

Thomas (pictured above) alluded to Gibson's imminent demolition to make way for new Universal Studios attraction centered on Harry Potter (live events are booked through early September, but signs of construction preparation were already visible toward the back of the venue.) "If we play our cards right, I hope we're the first ones to play there," he joked of the amphitheater's replacement.

Slinky riff-rocker "She's So Mean," a skittering "Our Song" and the punchy "Radio" were among the other catchy North standouts. The second of those tracks came replete with Syndrum-bashing by nervy drummer-turned-rhythm-guitarist Paul Doucette, but it was current timekeeper Stacy Jones – known for his work with American Hi-Fi, Veruca Salt, Letters to Cleo and others – who really gave the old hits a heftier punch than in the past, especially true during "Bent" and "Long Day."

Thomas worked up quite a sweat and constantly traversed the stage. Some of his best vocals were delivered amid the dramatic "English Town," "Real World," a rockier, revamped "Unwell," and "Bright Lights," which found the musicians pulling out all the stops to close the main set.

For an encore, M20 offered a straightforward cover of "Don't Change" by INXS, Thomas dedicating it to that Australian group's Jon Farriss, who was in attendance (a fan held up an Aussie flag).

photo by Armando Brown
The Goo Goo Dolls have a reputation for penning serious power ballads, but the boys from Buffalo have a sense of humor, too.

Their on-site merchandise included signed set lists with song titles changed to opposite meanings.

Before they took the stage to Pink Floyd's "Run Like Hell," someone dressed in a bear costume cavorted onstage to the Disney ditty "The Bare Necessities."

At another point during their satisfying 65-minute set, some ladies passed up a hand-lettered sign with an odd slogan related to food. Singer/guitarist John Rzeznik responded by saying, "You know you're getting old when people throw pictures of tacos instead of phone numbers at you."

Launching with the propulsive "Last Hot Night," the trio didn't delve into the upbeat Magnetic much. Instead, a sturdy arsenal of radio hits amassed over the past 18 years was the focus. 

The frontman relayed some background tidbits about "Name" and the beautiful new "Come to Me," possibly inspired by his nuptials next week. (Key lyric: "Today's the day I'll make you mine / So get me to the church on time.") During the latter tune, the Goo Goos' enticing projection panels displayed all the words.

Even though a muddy bass mix loomed throughout the band's performance (and to a lesser extent throughout Matchbox Twenty's as well), it didn't ruin highlights such as Rzeznik's impassioned vocals on "Here Is Gone," "Better Days" and "Iris."

Longtime tour musicians Brad Fernquist and Korel Tunador provided their usual top-notch support on guitar and keyboards; Tunador shined with a sax solo during the Supertramp cover "Give a Little Bit."

Earlier, Alaskan singer-songwriter Kate Earl served up a short opening set that sometimes recalled a less interesting Alanis Morissette.

Setlists: Matchbox Twenty, Goo Goo Dolls, Gibson Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, July 17, 2013

M20: Parade / Bent / Disease / She's So Mean / How Far We've Come / 3 A.M. / Real World / When You're Gone / Our Song / Long Day / I Will / Unwell / Radio > So Sad, So Lonely / English Town / Bright Lights // Encore: Don't Change (INXS cover) / Back 2 Good / Push
Goo Goos: Last Hot Night / Naked / Slide / Here Is Gone / Rebel Beat / Black Balloon / Now I Hear / Another Second Time Around / Let Love In / Come to Me / Name / Bringing on the Light / Give a Little Bit (Supertramp cover) / Better Days / Iris / Broadway 

The tour next plays July 19 at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, $49.50-$99.50; July 20 at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine, $32-$137.50; and July 24 at Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, $39-$79.

No comments: