Rob Thomas laughed as he shared stories of high school parties, saving a phone message from Mick Jagger and how he knew nothing about relationships despite being married for 18 years.
In between, the svelte 44-year-old New Yorker sang eloquently about love, broken hearts, an ailing
mother and life’s small but simple gems in front of 2,000 fans Wednesday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Dressed in black skinny pants, his signature black T-shirt and tan, low-leather boots, the German-born front man of Matchbox Twenty delivered a sweet, two-hour romantic evening of 18 ditties. He and his two fellow guitarists performed the monster single Push for an encore.
Thomas, who grew up in the Southern U.S., will open for The Counting Crows Saturday night at the Chateau Ste Michelle Winery in Woodinville, Wash. and play the Sunlight Supply Amphitheater Sunday in Ridgefield, Wash.
He was at the Hard Rock Casino in Vancouver the night before the Penticton show.
Thomas, who works 16 hours a day as one of the world’s top songwriters, opened 10 minutes late with Heartbreaks and followed with Falling to Pieces and Diamonds. The sound was clearer than Windex from all parts of the facility.
He also delivered a tender and dialed-back rendition of 3AM, which was written about Thomas’ experiences as an adolescent watching his mother fight cancer.
The mainly 40-something crowd finally got up from the floor seats when Thomas rolled into Someday. He offered the microphone to the crowd on his next hit, Unwell. A philanthropist who, along with his wife, Marisol, created the animal rescue and advocacy charity Sidewalk Angels in New York, Thomas relayed a story about how he felt guilty about giving his dog attitude when the pooch took too long to “take a poop” on a walk in the park.
Thomas urged fans to “surround yourself with people who love you” and then sang the piano and string-driven ballad Disease, a song he wrote for Jagger, helping Thomas be a contributor to sales of more than 80 million records.
“I got a call from Mick Jagger and when I told him I sold 13 million records, he thought that was cute and said ‘I hope things work out for you,’ I saved a message from Mick on my home voicemail for three years. When I had company over, I’d say, ‘just let me check my messages’ and go ‘oh, it’s Mick again.’”
On Street Corner, his fifth performance on the set list, Thomas talked about how learning to play the piano helped him meet girls in high school.
“I would bring my Lionel Ritchie playbook to house parties. The jocks would do a billion beer pongs and pass out and leave their girlfriends to me.”
He added before playing keyboards “this goes out to my younger self because I wanted to be like Lionel Ritchie.”
Thomas nailed every song and admitted You Won’t Be Mine was his favourite Matchbox Twenty tune.
He also shone on the ballad Pieces, his latest single, four songs from the night’s end.
Last in the Okanagan 11 years ago, at Kelowna’s Prospera Place, Thomas drew the loudest ovation when he began a slow rendition of Smooth, a Latin-tinged blockbuster that earned Thomas three Grammy Awards and spent 12 weeks atop Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. The song’s video, with Carlos Santana on guitar, is much livelier and danceable.
Thomas was the recent recipient of an Ally Award from the Trevor Project, a nonprofit suicide hotline specifically made for LGBTQ youth.
He and The Counting Crows wrap up their summer tour, Sept. 30 in Nashville.
Kevin Mitchell a reporter with Black Press