By: Patrick Ryan USA TODAY
Yes, Rob Thomas has seen the “Smooth” memes.
In 1999, the Matchbox Twenty frontman was featured on Carlos Santana’s sizzling rock hit “Smooth,” which topped the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for 12 weeks. In the two decades since, the song has taken on a life of its own, in the form of Twitter parody accounts, T-shirt slogans and countless Internet memes.
“Me and Carlos talk almost every other day about stupid (expletive),” Thomas tells USA TODAY. “My last favorite one was ‘The Santana Clause,’ where instead of Tim Allen on the poster, they had us and the tagline, ‘They have 12 days to save Christmas or else forget about it.’ It was something ridiculous, but it’s hilarious.”
Thomas, 47, will continue to embrace millennial nostalgia this summer with the Matchbox Twenty 2020 tour, a 50-date arena and amphitheater trek across North America, kicking off in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on July 17 with supporting act The Wallflowers. Tickets go on sale to the band’s fan-club members Tuesday (10 a.m. EST) and the public starting Friday on livenation.com (12 p.m. EST).
The tour, announced exclusively on usatoday.com, is timed to the 20th anniversary of Matchbox’s 2000 album “Mad Season,” which spawned Top 10 hits “If You’re Gone” and “Bent.” The set list will likely incorporate some deeper cuts from that album, as well as other popular songs including “3 AM,” “Unwell” and “Push.”
“Half of us realizes we’re in the hospitality industry: It’s our job to make sure people have a good time,” Thomas says. “The other half is just playing music we enjoy playing together.”
No doubt fans will be 100% excited the band is going back on tour for the first time since 2017. Read on for the rest of our interview with Thomas.
Question: Matchbox last hit the road together in 2017, on a co-headlining trek with Counting Crows. What surprised you most about that tour?
Answer:We’ve been playing together for 20 years and we’ve had very few personal arguments – any argument we’ve ever had is strictly professional. But before that (tour), we were right on the precipice of whether or not we were gonna be a band anymore. Kyle (Cook) had gotten frustrated and left, and we were in limbo for a second while I was solo. And then for some reason, everything just aligned. We got back together and that tour in 2017 turned out to legitimately be the most fun we’ve probably ever had. We got along better than we ever had, so it was a blessing. And that was the moment where we realized that no matter what we’re up to, no matter what the hiatus is, when we get back together, we’re ready to play.
Q: Aside from the hits, is there a song that gets the biggest reaction from fans when you play it live?
A:There’s one I wrote for the third record called “So Sad So Lonely.” And then there’s one that Paul Doucette wrote for the last record called “English Town,” which has become our favorite and a fan favorite every night. Over 20 years, the Matchbox sound has really evolved from songs like “3 AM” to “English Town.” We’re lucky that our fans have kept coming along with us and allowing us to do that.
Q: What about a song that you’ve grown sick of or have retired from your set lists?
A: There are some songs that are popular that I would be OK if I never listened to again. “Real World” is a great example: If I was listening to it, I would just hear all the deficits in production and things I would have done differently now. But when we play it live, there’s that energy shared with the crowd and it feels new. It’s a whole different thing. Then there are songs like “Busted”: the very minor-chord, angsty, ’90s rock songs. As we all got into our 40s and had families and actual things to be concerned about, that manufactured angst from your 20s doesn’t really feel relevant to us anymore. We haven’t done some of those songs in a really long time just because they don’t feel genuine anymore.Get the Entertainment newsletter in your inbox.
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Q: You released a new solo album, “Chip Tooth Smile,” last spring, but it’s been nearly eight years since the last Matchbox record (2012’s “North”). Are you guys working on any new music now?
A:We’re working on some new songs, but I don’t see the landscape in the world being one that makes sense for us to make an entire album right now. We’re going out on an anniversary tour for (“Mad Season”) and there’s a huge amount of nostalgia that comes with that. There’s 20 years of music that people are going to want to listen to. So for us to just start shoving a whole bunch of brand new songs down people’s throats, I don’t think they’re going to love that. But if we came out with one or two songs that we legitimately got behind and we felt really good about, then those fans that really want to hear something new won’t walk away disappointed either.
Q: “Smooth” turned 20 last year. How do you and Carlos Santana look back on it now?
A:Listen, we’ve worked together a lot. We did “Smooth,” and then after that, I wrote for him and Mary J. Blige and Musiq Soulchild and Seal and a bunch of other people on his records. I think we have this affection for “Smooth,” while at the same time, I don’t think either one of us thinks it’s the best song that we’ve ever done. I don’t think it’s the best song I’ve ever written and certainly not the best song that he’s ever done. But it just really holds a place in our hearts. It was the exact right song at the exact right time for the two of us. That’s another great example of a song that I don’t need to hear ever again, but if you play it live, it just sparks something in the crowd.
We went through that journey together. We’re like, “Man, this was the jam in the summer. Man, this is kind of cheesy and I’m sick of it. Oh, man, remember ‘Smooth?’ Let’s hear that again.”
Matchbox Twenty 2020
For more information about the tour, visit matchboxtwenty.com. The full list of dates:
July 17 – Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Wind Creek Event Center
July 18 – Gilford, New Hampshire, Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion
July 19 – Syracuse, New York, St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater at Lakeview
July 21 – Camden, New Jersey, BB&T Pavilion
July 22 – Wantagh, New York, Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater
July 24 – Saratoga Springs, New York, Saratoga Performing Arts Center
July 25 – Mansfield, Massachusetts, Xfinity Center
July 26 – Uncasville, Connecticut, Mohegan Sun Arena
July 28 – Holmdel, New Jersey, PNC Bank Arts Center
July 29 – Bristow, Virginia, Jiffy Lube Live
July 31 – Virginia Beach, Virginia, Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater at Virginia Beach
Aug. 1 – Raleigh, North Carolina, Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek
Aug. 2 – Charlotte, North Carolina, PNC Music Pavilion
Aug. 4 – Atlanta, Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood
Aug. 5 – Nashville, Bridgestone Arena
Aug. 7 – Tampa, Florida, MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre at the Florida State Fairgrounds
Aug. 8 – West Palm Beach, Florida, Coral Sky Amphitheatre at the South Florida Fairgrounds
Aug. 9 – Jacksonville, Florida, Daily’s Place
Aug. 11 – Pelham, Alabama, Oak Mountain Amphitheatre
Aug. 13 – Memphis, Tennessee, TBA
Aug. 14 – Houston, The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion presented by Huntsman
Aug. 15 – Dallas, Dos Equis Pavilion
Aug. 17 – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Zoo Amphitheater
Aug. 18 – Rogers, Arkansas, Walmart Amp
Aug. 19 – Maryland Heights, Missouri, Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre – St. Louis
Aug. 21 – Tinley Park, Illinois, Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre – Chicago
Aug. 22 – Noblesville, Indiana, Ruoff Music Center
Aug. 23 – Moline, Illinois, TaxSlayer Center
Aug. 25 – Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Blossom Music Center
Aug. 26 – Burgettstown, Pennsylvania, S&T Bank Music Park
Aug. 27 – Cincinnati, Riverbend Music Center
Aug. 29 – Darien Center, New York, Darien Lake Amphitheater
Aug. 30 – Toronto, Budweiser Stage
Sep. 1 – Clarkston, Michigan, DTE Energy Music Theatre
Sep. 2 – Toledo, Ohio, Toledo Zoo Amphitheater
Sep. 4 – Welch, Minnesota, Treasure Island Resort & Casino
Sep. 5 – Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Denny Sanford PREMIER Center
Sep. 6 – Kansas City, Missouri, Starlight Theatre
Sep. 8 – Omaha, Nebraska, CHI Health Center Omaha
Sep. 10 – Denver, Pepsi Center
Sep. 12 – Boise, Idaho, Ford Idaho Center
Sep. 13 – Salt Lake City, USANA Amphitheatre
Sep. 15 – Seattle, White River Amphitheatre
Sep. 16 – Vancouver, Rogers Arena
Sep. 17 – Ridgefield, Washington, Sunlight Supply Amphitheater
Sep. 19 – Mountain View, California, Shoreline Amphitheater
Sep. 20 – Fresno, California, Save Mart Center
Sep. 22 – Phoenix, Ak-Chin Pavilion
Sep. 23 – San Diego, Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre at SDSU
Sep. 24 – Irvine, California, FivePoint Amphitheatre
Sep. 26 – Las Vegas, Palms Casino Resort
Sep. 27 – Bakersfield, California, Mechanics Bank Arena
Sep. 28 – Los Angeles, Hollywood Bowl
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