Fountains, matchbox a strange, pleasing combo

Monday, December 8, 2003

The Show Me Center's Sunday night offering to the rock gods was a study in the dichotomy of today's Top 40 rock landscape.

On one side was Fountains of Wayne, an indie-style band who've just cracked into rock stardom with their happy-go-lucky hit, "Stacy's Mom." On the other was matchbox twenty, a well-established multiplatinum group with a slew of hits in its catalog.

Fountains of Wayne's rock is simple and minimal with the three-chord, three-minute romps in the tradition of punk. Matchbox's idea of rock is the big swagger of the rock ballad, produced to sell and please the ears of millions.

The two are a strange combination. But it was a combination that seemed to please the near-capacity crowd at the Show Me Center.

The night started with a bang, as Fountains of Wayne entered to the roar of a jet engine propelling tons of steel into flight in what may have been an homage to the Beatles' "Back in the U.S.S.R." They then blasted into a three-chord assault with whining, dissonant lead guitar licks, driven by a bass tone that sounded bigger than life itself, possibly due to the bassist's use of the classic Gibson Thunderbird.

But Fountains wasn't all energetic punk-pop. They had some variety up their sleeve.

About halfway through the set, they played a series of stripped-down acoustic numbers. They showed they were adept at creating spacy atmospheres on "Valley Winter Song," and even brought in two roadies to play auxiliary percussion on "Hey Julie."

They also showed off their knowledge of classic rock, incorporating a medley of such songs as "Sharp Dressed Man" and "Carry on my Wayward Son" into their closing number.

About half the crowd of 3,555 rose to give Fountains of Wayne a standing ovation when they left the stage, but the whole place stood up for the entrance of superstar Rob Thomas and his matchbox twenty.

Thomas came out with a swagger that brought Mick Jagger to mind. The stage offered plenty of eye candy, with translucent speaker cabinets, LCD screens that displayed colored patterns behind the band and a powerful set of strobe lights.

The music was performed with polish, but it was the formulaic power-ballad rock of one of radio's most commercial bands. They gave honor to the greats, though, closing an early song with a couple of bars of The Beatles' "She Loves You."

Matchbox was by far the crowd favorite. Thomas was the consummate frontman, complete with loads of banter and stage presence, whereas Fountains of Wayne seemed uneasy on stage by deciding not to yuck it up much with the crowd.

The contrast between the acts meant there was something for both the indie-hipster and the Top 40 follower at the Show Me Center.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 226

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