Best known as the frontman for hugely successful US rock outfit Matchbox Twenty, Rob Thomas played an extraordinary concert at Samala showroom in the Chumash Casino Resort. Not only was the gig sold out long before showtime, the night pulled in the largest audience at the venue since Stevie Wonder several years before, with fans in every nook and cranny of the room.

The event was organized as a benefit for Thomas’s pet (pun intended) project, the Sidewalk Angels Foundation. According to the their website, the organization “is dedicated to providing critically needed funds and support to over 20 no-kill animal shelters and animal rescues, across the country, that helps to fight for the rights and fair treatment of those with no voice.” (This writer’s two feral cats rescued by one of these shelters in Los Angeles are looking on approvingly as I write this review.)

A spectacular production which acts as a preview of Thomas’s recently announced summer tour which begins in late May, the show features state of the art sound system, lighting, and live video displayed on giant screens. An animated Thomas heads up a band of no less than eight veteran musicians all of whom took turns wowing the crowd with solos and strong trade-offs of signature licks.

Leaning on the singer’s solo material, including songs for his upcoming album Chip Tooth Smile, due for release on April 26th. One already released song from the album 'One Less Day (Dying Young)', provides a particularly riveting moment for the enraptured audience, its Celtic inspired dance music at the close bringing the capacity audience to their feet for some toe-tapping. Coming a week after Flogging Molly at the same venue and a fortnight after St Patrick’s Day, the Irish theme was strongly represented at the Santa Ynez resort throughout the month.

Thomas displayed his remarkable storytelling techniques introducing the profoundly personal songs from his solo albums with intriguing stories of how they came to be written. Of course, he played some of the Matchbox Twenty hits, but reworked and sometimes in acoustic form. Thomas also led the group in a riveting extended cover of David Bowie classic 'Let’s Dance', featuring thunderous solos from various members of the band. A track that has broken countless records, “Smooth”, also understandably featured, the global hit Thomas recorded with guitar maestro Carlos Santana in 1999 endearing him to a completely different generation of new fans.

Photos by L. Paul Mann

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