Better With Age
Rock bands finally team up for tour
Emerging as mainstream acts of the ’90s alternative rock scene only years apart, Counting Crows and Matchbox Twenty are not only emblematic of the musical period, but their histories are intertwined as well. When getting their start as a local band in Orlando, Matchbox members were playing covers of Crows’ songs at their club gigs. Drummer/ rhythm guitarist Paul Doucette even recalls returning to the band after a short absence when he and lead singer Rob Thomas saw each other at a Counting Crows show.
“It’s funny and totally fitting that we’re celebrating our history with them,” Doucette says of their co-headlining “A Brief History of Everything Tour,” Matchbox’s first in four years and their first outing without a record attached. “It’s a package that a lot of people have wanted over the years. We’re two bands that are definitely based in melody, very song-oriented bands. But we put on a very different show, so I think we show both ends of that spectrum.”
“Songwriting is a really important part of music [but] it’s an underrated thing,” adds Crows’ lead singer Adam Duritz. “Because a band that has a sound that works for a moment maybe lasts for a second, but bands that really write songs, that music can be timeless. And in this case, you have two bands that are still playing, writing, recording 20- [and] 25-plus years later. That’s a very, very rare thing.”
Like a few other bands from this season’s AMP schedule who are celebrating more than two decades together with a fresh tour, Matchbox and the Crows are both pulling songs from across their catalogs. Both Doucette and Duritz admit that while of course they’re performing their hits, each set on the tour will be just a little bit different.
“When you’re younger, all you’re seeing is what you want things to be, so you’re constantly in a battle of, ‘This isn’t right yet, this isn’t right yet,’” Doucette shares. But with “the gift of age,” he jokes, “my perspective on things changed drastically. There’s definitely songs I’ll play that I like a lot more than I liked them at the time — I have a greater appreciation for what they are, for what we’ve done. Is it the greatest song ever written? No. But does it need to be? Not really. It can just be a great song.”
“Our songs are very much living things, and that means they can be different one night to the next. And they are,” Duritz offers. Though he says the group’s liberties during the live shows likely frustrate some fans, if people were only given music they already know they like, no one would ever hear anything new. “We’re very creative, and you’re not really hearing the record played. It’s a lot of improvisation that comes out because the truth is, a song you wrote on one day meant something the day you recorded it, and your life’s different now, and your experience with that song’s going to be different too.”
The most obvious example of that difference, Duritz reveals, is with “Mr. Jones,” the single from debut album “August and Everything After.” The record’s only upbeat tune, “Mr. Jones” — written when Duritz was dreaming of a rock star’s life, but already knowing how hollow that experience would be — made the Crows famous.
“Playing a song about dreaming about being a rock star and how that’s not really going to be what you think is different than my experience now after having actually lived it 20-plus years, or even my experience after just a few months on the road,” he shares. “You could either just play your songs the way they always were and sing them exactly the same, or you can allow your life to filter through your songs — and in that case they’re going to change every day.”
“When I play songs I’ve played a million times, [the crowd isn’t] hearing it that millionth time; they’re hearing it once. So you get this really genuine excitement reaction,” shares Matchbox Twenty drummer and rhythm guitarist Paul Doucette, left. “Especially when we play songs we haven’t played in 20 years, people get really excited about it. So you can either go up there and you can be a selfish performer, or you can be part of the collective. And [that’s what] we’ve always been — we’re part of the collective. This is a shared experience.”