Judge Gordon Sullivan is an illusion.
Featuring the multi-platinum recording artist performing hits from his solo career, and Matchbox Twenty.
Rob Thomas has had a strange career. He fronted the almost-one-hit-wonders Matchbox Twenty, which yielded one of the go-to songs of the late-'90s ("3AM"), but waited four years to follow up that record. In the meantime he had a mega-hit with a Carlos Santana collaboration ("Smooth"). Despite the lack of his usual band on that track, he didn't release a solo album for another six years. That album, Something to Be, yielded a tour that is documented on this DVD, Rob Thomas: Live at Red Rocks.
This disc includes eighteen tracks from Colorado's famed venue:
1) "Something to Be"
Matchbox Twenty was an interesting band in the '90s because they were pitched almost perfectly between the crunch of high-grunge acts (like Pearl Jam or Soundgarden) and the more classicist bands (like The Wallflowers). Rob Thomas made an interesting front man because he could be earnest almost to the point of parody without ever quite tipping over. When he broke out to do "Smooth" with Santana he showed that his style had the potential to break out of the grungy rut and outlast some of his contemporaries (like Tonic, who had a hit around the same time as "3 AM"). Although he continued to make music with Matchbox Twenty in the '00s, Rob Thomas finally broke away in 2005 with a solo album, from which much of this disc is taken.
The solo turn allows Thomas to embrace his earnest side with a collection of songs with huge choruses and his usual sincerity. However, because he's not working with a cemented band, Thomas is free to gather a group of musicians to cater to his musical vision. This is both a blessing and a curse as demonstrated by this DVD. On the one hand Thomas surrounds himself with very capable musicians able to effortlessly create a musical backdrop for Thomas' musings. On the other hand, because of the number of musicians involved the efforts can sound a bit faceless, like the musicians are just playing the songs instead of playing with each other. Their front man seems to be having an off night as well. Song after song Thomas brings intensity, but there's very little release. Eventually the intensity gets to be frustrating, as the music builds but never quite goes anywhere.
The concert isn't a total loss, however. The show is shot well and does a good job showing off the gorgeous Red Rocks Amphitheater. The audience seems to be enjoying the show as well, and their energy helps the show. It also helps that while Rob Thomas often looks overly-serious, his fellow musicians seem to be having a load of fun, often breaking out into smiles as they play.
On the technical front, Rob Thomas: Live at Red Rocks is good but not great. The video isn't as sharp as I would have expected from a show of such recent vintage (and supposedly captured in hi-def). The level of detail is a little disappointing, and although there don't seem to be any compression problems to speak of. The audio fares quite a bit better, with good separation between the instruments and an impressive low end. The concert is also mixed well, with good use of crowd noise and effective dynamics. The lone extra is a video for Thomas' song "Streetcorner Symphony." A little behind the scenes footage would have been nice, but a bonus video isn't too bad.
I'm not the world's biggest Rob Thomas fan, but this concert DVD is sure to please fans, even if it's not likely to win him any new ones. A no-frills audiovisual presentation married to a career-spanning set of songs makes this easy to recommend to the faithful.
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