Rob Thomas brought the ultimate feel-good show to town during his recent stop in Indianapolis. Teaming up with the Plain White T’s and Vinyl Station, Thomas set out on “The Great Unknown” tour in support of his new single “Trust You” off his forthcoming album, “The Great Unknown”.
Phoenix, AZ based Indie rock band Vinyl Station, started the night off strong with a collection of sorrow-filled indie rock tracks that were a perfect blend of Ryan Adams and Mumford & Sons. Their performance of the song “That Man” off of the 2012 release, The Evening Sin, was particularly compelling. The song, though small and quiet in the beginning, builds to an infectious chorus. Even though the audience remained seated throughout the set, there were many tapping feet and bobbing heads in the crowd as the band played. When fans flooded into the lobby between sets, many expressed how pleasantly surprised they were by the band’s sound.
Next, the Plain White T’s, best known for 2005’s chart-topper “Hey There Delilah” proved that the band were far more than a one-hit-wonder and proved it with an impressive set of their own. Vocalists, Tom Higgenson and Tim Lopez exchanged lead vocals duties, but truly shined when they sang together, producing near-flawless harmonies.
One particular highlight of the Plain White T’s set was the performance of the new song “Stay”, which Higgenson explained was about a girl who “stole [his] heart and gave it right back to [him]”. The song sounded a bit like a Maroon 5 rock-focused track. At this point, the band was firing on all cylinders and clearly excited to be playing something so new and fresh.
They didn’t seem concerned with stuffing as many songs as they could into their allotted set time. Instead, they focused on quality over quantity and took a relaxed approach to their set while sprinkling in a few conversations with the crowd.
While many artists grow tired of and resentful towards their smash hits, the Plain White T’s seemed to view “Delilah” through the most gracious lens possible. “We love that you guys love this song”, Higgenson told the audience “so let’s all sing it together”, to which the vast majority in the room happily obliged.
Higgenson’s comment, although simple, said so much about the maturity and mindset of the band. They don’t resent people for hanging on to that “one” song. Instead, they’re choosing to see the beauty of so many people finding such joy in it.
At long last, it was time for Rob Thomas to take the stage. As soon as the lights went down the room erupted into cheers and screams that were so overpowering it felt as though the crowd was 20,000 strong instead of 2,000. No doubt about it, Rob Thomas fans are a dedicated, passionate bunch, and with good reason. After a minute of build-up from the band Thomas walked out on stage to a nearly-packed house that was ready to let loose.
The breadth of Thomas’ appeal was one of the most surprising aspects of the night. A teen boy in the front row was every bit as wide-eyed and enthusiastic as the middle-age women in the balcony that danced with drinks in hand as they hung on to their best friend or significant other. Initially this was baffling, but as Thomas worked his way through his set it became clear that he truly has a little something for everyone.
Thomas has assembled a phenomenal team. He couldn’t find a band with better chemistry if he’d searched the world over. Far from merely being a “backup band”, the group was gelled together and more playful with one another than most. The production was top-notch as well. From the fun flower designs that scanned the audience before the opening track “Give Me the Meltdown” to a stunning display of white and purple lights that rained down onto the audience during “Her Diamonds,” the lighting was tailored to each song.
One of the most touching moments of the night came in between songs, when Thomas suddenly hopped off stage and ran into the crowd. He looked visibly moved when he returned and explained that he’d seen a fan he knew and she was going through a hard time and how happy he was to see her at the show. Thomas then dedicated the song “Ever The Same” to her.
This spirit of sincerity and gratitude was a constant element in Thomas’ set. He made a point to express this gratitude verbally, it was most evident simply by his demeanor and the absolute joy that radiated from him and the band. Everyone on stage seemed so happy to have the privilege of playing for an audience. It was clearly something that none of them had taken for granted.
Needless to say, it didn’t feel contrived or forced when Thomas segued into “Little Wonders” by talking about appreciating each moment and the people you spend them with, it was precisely what he had been doing all night. To turn the energy up again, the band went into a rousing version of “I Am An Illusion.” This turned into an all-out jam session that included a blistering steel pedal goutar solo from Indy-native Matt Beck.
As the night came to a close the Thomas played old favorites from both his solo and Matchbox 20 catalogs, such as “3AM”, “Smooth” and “This Is How A Heart Breaks” as the closer.
It was a whirlwind 2-hour set with great diversity, while still remaining totally cohesive. Going in to the show it was a bit baffling to see such over-the-top levels of enthusiasm from the fans but by the end of the night, all of that excitement made sense because Thomas displayed equal levels of enthusiasm and excitement throughout his set.
The Great Unknown tour continues until mid-August and is sure to be the perfect mood lifter for everyone in attendance.