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Live Review: Rob Thomas – 24th February 2016 – Sydney Opera House ‘On The Steps’, Sydney, Australia

6 min read

Australia’s summer events calendar is in full swing with outdoor concerts and festivals continuing to pull in the crowds around the country, and undoubtedly one of the hottest tickets by far for live outdoor tunes continues to be the On The Steps series. One The Steps performances are also one of the most picturesque events to claim a ticket for with the quaint stage set up residing beneath the iconic peaks of the world renowned Sydney Opera House and overlooking the towering Harbour Bridge. We can certainly think of worse ways to spend an evening, that’s for sure.

With recent One The Steps slots this week being filled by the likes of 80’s heavyweights Simply Red, last night saw Matchbox 20 frontman and solo star Rob Thomas take ownership of the outdoor Opera House stage as the 90’s rock staple touched down to perform songs from his recently release solo record, The Great Unknown.

Rob Thomas is no stranger to Australian audiences: The Lonely No More hit-maker has journeyed down under several times over the last twenty years to treat fans to solo and Matchbox 20 sets; celebrating his success on Australian shores with sold out shows and rave reviews time and time again. Having already performed shows in Melbourne and Canberra ahead of last night’s performance, the shows, while met with as much praise as previous tours, have also had its fair share of criticism; the singer receiving backlash and left red-faced for some comments made during a recent concert in Melbourne. While never a great way to start a new tour, Thomas seemed back in full spirits last night as he set his sights on Sydney.

The Matchbox 20 front man-turned solo megastar turned out the hits for fans who sat beneath the iconic waves of the Sydney Opera House; his stage presence as engaging and electrifying as the repertoire offered up to the fans which contained solo material spanning each of his 3 solo records as well as a cover here and there and a couple of notable singles from his Matchbox 20 catalogue.

Dressed in a denim shirt, jeans and a black tee, the American rocker flexed his vocal muscles around a set more pop oriented than previous tours; dishing up flavorsome versions of opener Give Me The Meltdown, while the groovy Fallin’ to Pieces and Her Diamonds sound positions early on in the set; the latter proving to be one of the sets most memorable inclusions and one that allowed the musicians backing singers to add a gospel scented closing chorus to the number, adding diversity to the predominantly pop/rock event.

New album numbers I Think We’d Feel Good Together and Hold On Forever – plucked from recently released solo record The Great Unknown – held up well as they neighbored career heavyweights like Lonely No More and Streetcar Symphony; the latter being dished up following a story which involved Thomas meeting Lionel Ritchie in a bar and declaring to the Dancing on the Ceiling superstar that his songs got the rocker laid many times as a teenager. The anecdote was one of many that found a home between many of the hits performed last night; stories or comments to the crowd often centered around not taking life and its moments, whether big or small, for granted or pausing for a moment to reminisce on his hugely successful career; painting a picture of a moment in his life for fans to be with him on the journey through his songs. He was a true gentleman and a performer that had each and every member of the audience engaged throughout the entire show as well as singing along to the hits that we offered up generously.

The night also displayed a sentimental side to the star who dedicated tracks to various people in his life who were important to him, such as The Great Unknown, the title track to his brand new record, to the resilience of his wife of 17 years and a gorgeously vulnerable and casually guitar strummed version of Ever the Same; a tribute to a friend in the front row who the singer described as helping him through some pretty rough times.

The latter half of the set proved just as popular and grounded as the first with some of the stars most acclaimed numbers making an appearance and some of the nights most memorable tracks. 2009 Cradlesong LP track Fire On The Mountain – complete with images of flames lighting up the screens behind Thomas and his band, proved a memorable addition to the set and allowed for his guitarists to inject some meaty, wielding guitar solos between the tracks thumping beat as the number pushed us into the stars more familiar rock territory.

Asking the crowd “who wants to dance” Thomas dove into a slick cover of David Bowie signature pop hit Lets Dance – turning out an impressive tribute to a song close to the hearts of Australian fans of the late icon.

The singer got a welcome applause as he delivered his next single, Pieces. The track was accompanied by the crowd holding their phones in the air as the lights lit up the picturesque backdrop of the Opera House peaks as the singer delivered one of the more tender gems of the set while his performance of Hold On Forever had the star seated at the front of the stage, dripping in sweat as he offered fans one of the most summer-drenched set inclusions.

As a piano was brought out to centre stage, Thomas sat at the instrument, facing his fans and delivered a series of laid back versions of some of his most widely known penning’s like Little Wonders and Matchbox 20 highlight 3AM which had the crowd screaming back in adoration at the songwriting icon. After an electrifying performance of I Am an Illusion, Thomas offered up another Matchbox 20 hit with Unwell getting a slight country makeover as he was accompanied by piano and a slide guitar.

After a brief departure from the stage and with the crowd eager for more, Thomas returned to perform one of the most anticipated singles of the night – Smooth; a key opportunity for the crowd to get even more worked up into a frenzy and belt back in karaoke style to the Grammy winning solo career highlight for Thomas before the star delivered This Is How A Heart Break, the closing number of the night.

A great night of impeccable tunes by a seasoned performer who knows both his audience and his strengths as an entertainer and perched within spectacular settings with Sydney’s Opera House and Harbour Bridge providing an iconic backdrop, last nights show was one that fans will be sure to remember for many years to come.

Setlist:AM
Give Me the Meltdown
Fallin’ to Pieces
Lonely No More
Her Diamonds
Getting Late / That’s All Right
Mockingbird
The Great Unknown
Ever the Same
Someday
I Think We Feel Good Together
Fire on the Mountain
Let’s Dance (David Bowie cover)
Pieces
Hold on Forever
Streetcorner Symphony
Little Wonders
3 A.M. (Matchbox Twenty song)
I Am an Illusion
Unwell (Matchbox Twenty song)

Encore:
Smooth (Santana cover)
This Is How a Heart Breaks