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Review: SPAC twinbill shows off ’90s pop rock at its finest

Wednesday, June 26, 2013
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Lead singer Rob Thomas, right, and Matchbox Twenty perform Wednesday at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber
Lead singer Rob Thomas, right, and Matchbox Twenty perform Wednesday at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

— The Matchbox Twenty-Goo Goo Dolls double bill Wednesday night at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center proved to be a ’90s pop rock match made in heaven.

Before a mostly packed house, the two bands turned in fine, if not particularly daring sets that provided note-perfect renditions of their radio hits.

Matchbox Twenty was arguably the more dynamic band, thanks in large part to vocalist Rob Thomas’ powerful and charismatic delivery. The band focused mainly on its energetic, highly danceable numbers for its 70-minute set, including a large portion of its self-titled, breakthrough debut album — rockers like “3 A.M.,” “Real World,” “Long Day” and an encore performance of “Push” got the audience shaking, clapping and singing along word-for-word with Thomas’ raucous belting.

The band wasted no time getting the crowd on its feet, opening with dance rocker “Parade” before diving straight into the 2000 hit single “Bent,” featuring some nice lead playing from guitarist Kyle Cook. “She’s So Mean,” from last year’s comeback album “North,” proved a crowd favorite, with the stuttering guitar line giving way to an explosive chorus.

It took seven songs for the band to pull out a ballad, another hit, “If You’re Gone,” which showcased Thomas’ soulful side. But the band dove right back into rocking out, pounding through “Overjoyed” and the aforementioned “Long Day” with muscle to spare. Other highlights included the slamming “Radio” and a lengthy jam on “So Sad So Lonely” late in the set.

But perhaps best of all was “I Will,” an acoustic ballad from “North” that brought levels down to a near-whisper. Here, multi-instrumentalist Paul Doucette provided the song’s backbone with sweet piano playing, while Thomas unleashed another fine vocal performance that ended with him nearly in tears.

Buffalo’s own Goo Goo Dolls took the stage before a rapidly filling amphitheater at about 7:45, which meant the sun interfered with the light show and screens for the first half-hour or so of the band’s 70 minutes. This didn’t detract from the performance or songs at all, with the band turning in a high-energy performance all around.

Lead singer/guitarist John Rzeznik took command of the stage early on, blasting through an energetic version of “Last Hot Night” before pulling out the big guns early with “Slide.” He laughed off a rough-around-the-edges guitar solo on “Naked,” but all was right again during “Here is Gone” and the first of a handful of new songs from the band’s latest album, “Magnetic,” the stomping acoustic anthem “Rebel Beat.”

With a shortened set, the band packed in the hits, including “Black Balloon,” which naturally saw a number of black balloons tossed around in the audience; and the acoustic ballad “Name.” The bouncy Robby Takac sang three pleasant-enough numbers, the best of the bunch being “Bringing on the Light.” The one-two punch of “Iris” and “Broadway” brought the set to a rollicking conclusion, with the latter number featuring some fine, almost jazzy playing from Rzeznik.

Alaska native Kate Earl kicked off the show at exactly 7, backed by a scrappy trio that gave her material quite a kick. The band pitched itself somewhere between sunny pop (set opener “I Get Around”) and bluesy hard rock (”All I Want”). Not all the material hit, but she proved more than ready for the big leagues with “Honey,” a bluesy dirge with an octave-shattering vocal run that could stand toe-to-toe with any diva touring today.

 
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