Rob Thomas at the 9:30 Club, Washington, DC, Saturday 30 April 2005
Although Rob Thomas recently broke away from the adult contemporary quintet Matchbox 20, he waited until his encore on Saturday night at the 9:30 club to perform solo. Even then, the two songs he played on his acoustic guitar weren't cuts off his debut solo album. Instead, he paid tribute to his former band with its first single, "Push," and Matchbox 20's concert standard, a cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time."
For the rest of Thomas's two-hour show, he was backed by a seven-piece band. While he may have just traded one band for another in the guise of a solo career, Thomas's new material has a markedly different sound, from the funk-tinged "Streetcorner Symphony" to the grinding "I Am an Illusion." Songs like "Fallin' to Pieces" were drenched with soul by three backup singers he dubbed the Hallelujah Choir, and his bouncy single "Lonely No More" sounded like a tribute to Justin Timberlake's Latin-influenced songs (a comparison further amplified by Thomas's new JT-like buzz cut).
While Thomas may be experimenting with several genres, his most memorable songs were logical progressions from his work in Matchbox 20: "You Know Me" featured bouncy choruses that could've come from the best of Neil Diamond's catalogue, while "Problem Girl" balanced a conversational vocal delivery with a delicate guitar melody. Either way, Thomas seems determined to make his solo career more than just Matchbox 2.0.
-- Catherine P. Lewis
.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 1 May 2005