If nothing else, Rob Thomas is a consummate performer. Bringing his Chip Tooth Tour to PNC Pavilion on a beautifully cool spring evening, it seemed as though he and his band had been touring for several months instead of a week. The setlist was carefully honed, the band sounded tight and well-rehearsed and Rob, himself, was completely at ease with his dedicated fans. There was something for everybody during the two-hour performance, which included a mix of songs from previous albums, a handful from the new album Chip Tooth Smile, a classic David Bowie cover and a few songs from Matchbox Twenty.
Dallas, Texas native Abby Anderson opened the night with a solid performance despite technical difficulties. Looking for a way to keep the set moving while her band worked out the issues, she grabbed her acoustic guitar and performed a lovely version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” Then, as the familiar notes of “Stand by Me” filled the pavilion, out walked Rob Thomas to join her in a surprise duet. It was special moment that occurred very early, but it turned out to be the first of many the fans would be treated to before the night ended. With her sassy personality and beautiful vocals, it was clear that she was an excellent choice as the opener on this tour and is unmistakably a new artist to watch.
The stage was quickly reset, and Thomas and his band took the stage to the thunderous applause of his fans, who were up on their feet and dancing from the first moment. Sporting a denim jacket with wings on the back and a Chip Tooth Tour t-shirt, he wasted no time launching into the rollicking “I Love It,” followed by “Mockingbird.” All the love continued throughout the night as Thomas spoke often of living in the moment, letting it all go and loving one another before time passes by and it’s too late to show your true feelings.
The band flowed seamlessly into the popular “Lonely No More’ before slowing down the tempo a bit with “Her Diamonds” and a song from the new album called “Can’t Help Me Now”. Reminding the crowd that he was “still the lead singer of the greatest rock band” with the conditional “at least, I think so,” he played a stirring version of Matchbox Twenty’s hit “If You’re Gone” then stepped up the pace for the popular “Streetcorner Symphony.”
Thomas spent a few quiet moments sitting at the piano and talking to the crowd about his first dog, Tyler. Unhappy about walking him in the rain and feeling sorry for himself one evening after a performance, he noticed how happy and enthusiastic Tyler was during this time. This led him to realize his thinking was all wrong and his dog was much smarter than he was. And after Tyler was gone, he wanted those small but important moments back. This led him to write the next song performed “Little Wonders,” a simple and beautifully composed tune.
Once again changing the pace, Thomas requested the crowd to “let it all go” and “do what felt fun” and to “enjoy this evening we were all sharing with each other.” Asking if we were “ready to dance?” the band began to play the familiar beat of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” and the venue immediately became a dancehall. Virtually every single person was on their feet, singing and swaying to the music. At that moment, the fans came together as one with the band, each feeding off the energy of the other in a brilliant musical circle of life.
Picking up his acoustic guitar and with his band encircling him, Thomas performed fan-favorite and the first song he ever wrote “that was any good and that I would allow anyone to hear”– Matchbox Twenty’s “3 A.M.” Extending the song a bit with several lines from Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” brought more audience participation with singing and sound effects at which Thomas laughed delightedly. “Ever the Same” and “Someday” kept with the slower pace and it remained astonishing that still no one sat down like most audiences do when things slow down a bit. The fans that came to see Rob Thomas on this night were all in and loving every single minute of it.
Gearing up for an all-out jam, the band performed “I Am an Illusion,” with every single member covering every square inch of the stage. Thomas made an incredible leap from the drum riser and ran off stage to leave his terrific band -- guitarist Frank Romano, bass player Al Carty, drummer Abe Fogel, guitarist and saxophone player Korel Tunador, keyboardist and band leader Matt Beck, along with backup singers Meloney Burns and Ayo Awosika -- there to continue playing a super funky and soulful groove.
Thomas returned for the encore without his denim jacket and wearing a “feminist” t-shirt. Sitting on the drum riser and accompanied only by pianist Beck, he performed the lovely and haunting “Pieces.” The rest of the band returned to the stage to perform the final Matchbox Twenty song, “Unwell.” To an appreciative audience, he remarked that he would be performing another cover. Smiling broadly and saying “it can’t be a cover song because I wrote it,” the audience erupted as the heard the first notes of “Smooth” As he paced back and forth, several in the front row offered up their cellphones and Thomas did not hesitate to grab one and proceed to film himself, the audience, the band, side-stage, backstage – you name it – before returning it to its happy owner.
The final song of the evening was an all-out party as an energetic audience enthusiastically sang along to “This is How a Heart Breaks.” It was the perfect end to a perfect night of music that had a diverse crowd come together to share that small moment with Rob Thomas and his band.
I Love It
Lonely No More
Can’t Help Me Now
If You’re Gone (Matchbox Twenty song)
One Less Day (Dying Young)
Let’s Dance (David Bowie cover)
3 A.M. (Matchbox Twenty song)
Fire on the Mountain
Ever the Same
I Am an Illusion
Unwell (Matchbox Twenty song)
Smooth (Santana cover)
This is How a Heart Breaks