DISCLAIMER: This is a very biased and partial opinion. There is a 20 year history between the author and the topic at hand (Rob Thomas music). Be advised there will be fangirling.
On February 22nd at 7:30 PM, I was privileged to attend the Canberra leg of Rob Thomas’s The Great Unknown Aussie 2016 tour.
Having been a hardcore listener to Rob’s music for the last twenty years, I must confess that was the highlight of my year thus far.
I was sitting on the ground floor 13 rows back from the stage. I was slightly off center, but I had a phenomenal view. Originally, I was going to go for the cheaper seats at the back, but on a “why not” impulse bought the floor ticket.
I’m so glad I did.
It was a non-stop party from start to finish. Even though it was a Monday night (a fact which Rob jokingly alluded to semi-regularly), it beat any Saturday night gig I’ve ever attended.
Rob has great music. That’s undeniable (see original disclaimer and don’t argue). However, part of the appeal of seeing him live is his charm.
I’m not downplaying his solid performance of such favorites as “Lonely No More”, and “This is How a Heart Breaks” as well as tracks from his new album; but the real show of the night as his personality. His expressions and mannerisms were just as entertaining as the songs themselves.
I’ve been to concerts where the artists were fairly sedate, and it seemed very routine. Honestly, it must get that way sometimes – they perform the exact same songs night after night. It must get a bit boring.
Rob is the exception – he makes each performance feel new. He acknowledges the fact that this is a brand new experience for us, so that makes it different for him. If it feels monotonous to him, he doesn’t let it show.
He directly addressed the fans at the back of the auditorium, empathizing with their low-budget plight, and making sure they knew he was aware of their collective existence.
He intermittently told stories about his past, including an amusing anecdote of him and Lionel Richie comparing notes on how his (Richie’s) music had helped them with the ladies.
At various points throughout the night, every single section was made to feel like they were appreciated and a valued part of his experience.
I’m somewhat cynical by nature, but if he doesn’t genuinely love his shows and the audiences that attend them, I’ll gladly live with this delusion for the rest of my life.
What songs did we hear? If pressed, I’d say all of them. He pulled from “Something to Be” (2005), “Cradlesong” (2009)… he even harkened back to his Matchbox Twenty days with a stripped down, ballad-esque version of “Unwell”.
One of my favorite moments of the evening was the acoustic and melodic rendition of “Ever the Same”.
There was a moment – a brief one, but a moment regardless – where I thought he’d wound us down too far to recover. Having had two beautiful, yet slow, ballads in a row, I kept thinking “there’s no way he can get the energy back”.
I remember only shaking the feeling slightly when I heard the intro to “I am an Illusion” (from Something to Be) immediately thereafter. How could he bring back the frenzy after so artfully easing us into such a peaceful state with those last two songs?
However, I should have known better. Though roughly 65% of the audience had remained faithfully attached to their seats throughout the entire night, there was not a single occupied chair when the familiar guitar sounds of the classic Santana/Thomas duet “Smooth” pierced the auditorium.
This was clearly the capstone, as there was no topping that. The music faded, and we were left with a final bow and a cheeky kiss blown to the crowd. I was sad for it to end, but happy that it had come full circle.
Rob, thank you for your music, and thank you for a fantastic show. Easily the best
Monday Saturday night I’ve ever had. Keep doing you.