On paper, the gulf between Pearl Jam and the Eagles looks like a tough one to bridge — but in practice, Matchbox Twenty had had no trouble at all building a virtual Chunnel between the posturing machismo of the former and the angst-ridden sensitivity of the latter.
The value of that union is certainly not open to debate in the offices of Atlantic Records, where the band’s multiplatinum certs festoon wall after wall. But over the course of this 90-minute perf (which fell one day after the release of its sophomore set, “Mad Season”), however, Matchbox Twenty’s raison d’etre was questionable at best.
Bolstered by the success of his collaboration with Carlos Santana, frontman Rob Thomas has developed enough presence to sidestep the “Which one’s Hootie?” questions that plagued the band’s labelmates and spiritual doppelgangers. But Thomas’ is an odd presence indeed. At times, the singer is the very model of the modern frat boy — an image he leavens with a heaping helping of doe-eyed sensitivity.
The emoting manifested itself quite effectively on some of “Mad Season’s” more pensive numbers, including “Angry,” but verged on mawkishness when Thomas crept into the treacly back patting of “Last Beautiful Girl.” None of Thomas’ bandmates demonstrated the slightest inclination to share the spotlight, opting to go through their workmanlike paces with clock-punching lassitude.
Packed house responded enthusiastically to hits from “Yourself or Someone Like You” — particularly “Real World” and the oddly misanthropic “Push.” Unfamiliarity aside, the newer material didn’t fare as well, in part because juxtapositions demonstrated that the band’s rep is based on two types of songs that have been rewritten a dozen times each: the rocked-up ballad (characterized by “Rest Stop”) and the ballad-inflected rocker (“Crutch”).
A three-song encore, punctuated by an odd rendition of the Who’s “Eminence Front,” was something of an anticlimax, proving only that Matchbox Twenty’s songs go down smoothly and leave no aftertaste at all.