If there’s one thing to be said about the Rob Thomas and Counting Crows tour, it’s that there is, without a doubt, no lack of talent on there. All three acts – The K Phillips Band, Rob Thomas and Counting Crows – showcased the kind of talent that can’t be praised enough in the music industry. Each performer was, across the board, more musically talented than many artists ever even hope to be. Something I noticed this tour did lack, though, was egos. No one act thought they were bigger or better than the next, and this was clearly displayed when Rob Thomas and Counting Crows lead singer Adam Duritz took the time to introduce their opening act, The K Phillips Band. Appreciation and admiration for one another isn’t something you see that often anymore in an industry that can, and sadly often does, rip you up and spit you out without a second thought. It’s actually quite refreshing to see artists like these, who have become so successful, stay so humble through their musical journey.
The Rob Thomas and Counting Crows tour was one I had been anxiously awaiting since the announcement was made that the two were finally getting to tour together after 20 years of friendship. To say I’m a fan of the Matchbox Twenty front man would be a huge understatement. From his extensive catalogue with Matchbox to his three successful solo albums, there isn’t a single thing that Rob Thomas has done that I don’t wholeheartedly love. So forgive me if this review comes off as biased, but if I’m being honest then I have to say that the highlight of the show was Rob’s performance. The 44 year old singer-songwriter sings with such genuine physical emotion that it’s impossible not to notice the amount of dedication and passion he has for what he does. Thomas’s 15 song set included a collection of songs from his first two solo albums (Something to Be and Cradlesong), as well as a select few Matchbox songs, his latest single “Pieces” from his recent album The Great Unknown, and surprisingly a cover of Prince’s “Baby I’m a Star.”
To pick a favorite part of Thomas’s performance would be like trying to pick a favorite child (if I had children of course). There wasn’t a single moment of Thomas’s set that was even remotely unenjoyable, as the singer is absolutely mesmerizing. And he works for his fans attention rather than just expecting it. Thomas moves with purpose, all across the stage, never staying in one spot for long, making it a point to interact with his fans. I mean, he sweat through 3 different t-shirts. I don’t think I’ve seen any artist do that before. I would have to say a big highlight was hearing the story Rob told behind his Grammy winning song with Carlos Santana (“Smooth”). The audience couldn’t help but laugh and whistle as Rob explained how Santana came to him when he heard the song, and told him he knew Thomas must be married to a Latin woman because of the line, “I would change my life to better suit your mood.” As it turned out, Thomas’s wife is half Puerto Rican and half Spanish.
With his distinctive voice and powerful stage presence, there’s no denying Rob Thomas is a captivating performer with more talent than I’m sure many are even aware of. Watching his set, the only thoughts I had were “I don’t want this to end” and “Dear God, why isn’t he headlining this show?” That’s not to say that the Counting Crows weren’t good, though. No one can take away the talent that band possesses, and Thomas himself has pointed out in multiple interviews how much of an influence the Crows had on him and Matchbox Twenty, even going as far as saying that if there weren’t Counting Crows there would be no Matchbox Twenty. However, the notable difference between Thomas’s performance and the Crows’ was stage presence. Crows lead singer Adam Duritz really didn’t even acknowledge the audience until a few songs in, which maybe isn’t completely uncommon among artists, but it does make a difference. We all love an artist who just plays and doesn’t waste time talking, but that only works when you have a collection of songs that your audience can sing and dance along to. And only certain artists can actually get away with performing that way. Unfortunately, the Counting Crows catalogue of songs doesn’t seem to have that effect on people.
The band’s smash hit, “Mr. Jones” wasn’t even played until much later in the set, and when it was played, it was performed in a way that only took away from what fans love about that song. Even though hearing songs like “Long December” and “Colorblind” were satisfying, they just didn’t seem to take the audience to the level that I think was expected or hoped for. While I’m sure diehard Counting Crows fans might disagree with me, I couldn’t help but notice the number of people leaving before the Crows set was over. Perhaps part of it has to do with the lack of upbeat songs in the Counting Crows music catalogue, or perhaps part of it has to do with the band’s lead singer suffering from Depersonalization Disorder, which makes the mind feel disengaged from the body and one’s surroundings. Truthfully, I think it’s a little bit of both. Regardless, it was clear that Rob Thomas should have been the headliner on the tour. Simply put, Thomas just knows how to entertain a crowd. And it doesn’t hurt that his catalogue of music is the perfect mix of pop rock hits that keep fans on their feet from start to finish.