Travis Laurence Naught experienced and reviews the kickoff concert of A Brief History of Everything Tour featuring Counting Crows and Matchbox 20.
I am an early ’80s baby. That means most of my formative music years came in the mid-’90s. Suffice it to say I had to grab tickets to a show featuring bands of my favorite listening years when I saw they were going on sale. It was a bonus that Spokane was the first venue on this tour’s schedule. My friends and I were excited at the beginning of the show. Read further to find out if we were disappointed in the end.
Spokane’s Veterans Memorial Arena seats approximately 13,000 people at capacity. Elton John packed the place in March 2017. Journey didn’t have quite the same pull, but still pulled in around 10,000. The double billing of Counting Crows and Matchbox 20 seemed like it should have major selling power, to me, so tickets were purchased the day they went on sale. Turns out, I could’ve waited. Not having access to any of the numbers, my guess is the final count at the door was somewhere around 8,000. When a number of those patrons were on the floor space instead of in the stands, the stands looked sort of empty. Now, I know it was a Wednesday night, but come on, Spokane! It’s a city I love, but it’s not without its flaws.
The arena did a very good job educating concertgoers about what the plan was going to be. Schedules were emailed regarding what times the doors opened, when the openers and each of the headliners would take the stage, and what items were and were not allowed in the building. Safety first. Convenience first, part B. These detailed emails hurt the crowd, in my opinion. Fans of Counting Crows knew that their band was going to be done by 9:00 p.m., so by the time Matchbox 20 took the stage at 9:20, a chunk of people had already left. But let’s be honest here, mainstream music draws more people, so the largest crowd of the night were in their seats and cheering at 9:22.
Neither group disappointed. I feel like Matchbox 20 gave their fans their hits in a higher studio quality. Lesser-known songs by the group were not as appealing to listen to, mostly sounding just a little too loud and a little too strained. Rob Thomas was quite the showman, prancing around stage like any number of different birds: he goose-stepped in several marching routines, pranced like a bandy rooster around the stage when he was on high, nearly slipped into pigeon cooing when his energy started to fade a couple of times …. Hey, this is the first show of a tour lasting until October, I can forgive the guy for not being all the way back in full form yet. Early in his set there was a moment when he was spinning the microphone stand like a helicopter blade in front of him, full on rock star, and I wondered if he really is still that level of rock star or if he just wanted to be. The group I was with had a blast, so maybe he is. Their lighting and other visual aspects were outstanding. Epileptics be warned, this is not a show for you. I give the Matchbox 20 portion of the show a solid 8 out of 10.
Counting Crows did what I hoped they would do and more. We were not given studio renditions of every song. There were calculated pauses in performance. Adam Duritz even joked with the audience. This felt like one of those spotlight performances that VH1 used to air, filmed in some multiple lamplit room. Now, don’t get me wrong, it still rocked. In fact, I would wager a bet that it rocked harder on stage than the rest of a half-empty arena could understand, because when the fans were asked to sing along to some of the more famous lines to some of their biggest hits (“Mr. Jones,” “Big Yellow Taxi,” “Hanginaround”), it was tough to understand the 30% or so of those who were carrying the tune. Live music in its finest form! And his voice was wonderful. I’d never given enough credit to the storytelling lyrical power, especially surrounding the idea of place, that Counting Crows purveys in their songs. During the show, I leaned over to my buddy and said, “This is like listening to electric Bob Dylan.” He pondered the statement for a moment and replied, “That is a wonderful comparison.” I grant a completely subjective 8.5 out of 10.
And that’s the idea behind this whole double headlining tour. It’s not for everyone. It’s for the fans. My concert viewership is widely varied. I’ve seen Boyz II Men to Kid Rock to Weird Al to Reba McEntire to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony to Elton John and so many more, but I’ve never seen a show more catered to the people who made the headliners famous. Everyone always feels like they are trying to gain new fans. More people will like Matchbox 20 and Counting Crows at the end of this tour than at the beginning, but it will be because friends of theirs who have been lifelong fans dragged them to a show. Everyone left the concert feeling like they had reconnected with some of their better-remembered times. The lyrics to the songs prove that those times were not actually better, but dammit anyway if we didn’t smile while we were singing along with them.
This article first appeared here and is reprinted with permission.