Allen, Texas, and I’m brought face to face with the tour manager for Rob Thomas. “Two songs”, he says, referring to the amount I’m allowed to shoot. I’m one song shy of standard concert protocol, but I recall in my research that Rob is a little shy, and doesn’t actually like to be photographed. I count myself lucky to be here at all and wait for the show to start. Recognition and realization are something I pride myself on.
For as long as I can remember I’ve had the ability to pause and take notice when in the presence of something truly great. Rob Thomas has always lingered for me. If something of his came on the radio I definitely wouldn’t change it, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see a show or buy an album. With the invention of iTunes I think I had most of his popular library, but it wasn’t until recently I truly stepped up to take notice of Rob.
“Her Diamonds” came to be at a time in my life where everything just fell into place and made sense. Every lyric clicked, and then as I paid more attention to Rob’s songs, I noticed that his voice rang true to that of every man. He is just a good person. He pulls in the little things and notices, and turns them into a dimension of song. Even before then, “Smooth”, a co-project with Carlo Santana, has been a favorite from the first time I heard it. It is just one of those songs you never get tired of. Also coined by me, “The sexiest song ever written”.
Sixteen years ago “Smooth” came to be and upon hearing the lyrics, Carlo turned to Rob and said “You must be married to a Mexican woman”. Rob laughed in turn, and said “Almost”. A few months later he married Marisol Maldonado, for whom the song was written. Rob put his career on hold while his wife fought a battle with an auto-immune disorder. Never leaving her side, but building his library in time. Even this 2016 tour was postponed just a few months as he faced surgery with her and helped her through recovery. That is what love and marriage looks like.
Knowing all of this, “Her Diamonds” makes so much more sense. My level of respect for Rob lies in that of a songwriter, husband and humanitarian. I see myself as a fan in just a secondary level, and only hope that a fraction of those of us here can be as whole of a person as he is.
And just like that, he runs onto the stage. At 44 the years have been good to him. His voice is immaculate as he begins with “Something to Be”. The band is ON FIRE. His two back-up girls sound like a gospel choir. My eyes are a light and I am praising the light-Gods on this one. Everything is beautiful. Rob bounces around the stage, dancing, performing and making everyone fall in love with him in an effortless swoop. A quick change into “Mockingbird”, and I’m sold. Rob’s in the moment and committed. I don’t think I can even see a single drop of sweat.
Alas my two songs are up, but I’m grateful for my close seats. This show is one to see. Before I know it I’m transformed back into college. Rob yells “This is for the 1997 you…” and rolls out with 3am. I can’t help but sway and go exactly back to that place. He’s flawless. Surely that wasn’t 20 years ago….
With an 18 song setlist, Rob nails each one with perfection. During “Streetcorner Symphony” he hits the crowd, dancing his way through the audience. The fans adore him. He has each of us wrapped around his finger. This excitement is why we buy concert tickets. I can’t think of a song he doesn’t play. I knew every lyric, and I haven’t felt this amazing since I don’t know when.
The lights go down, and Rob almost apologizes for playing a song off the new album. The words simply fall from his lips and I pick each one up like a delicate snowflake of knowledge. Right now he’s an oracle. “You know those people who are perfect.. the ones who’ve never been damaged or down… those are the people I don’t want advice from. Because sometimes life just hits you. You’re broken. And when you’re broken and beat down, you pick yourself up and learn from it. You know it’s gonna happen again- because that’s life”. And he’s right. “Pieces” is just about that very theory, and if I wasn’t a fan before- I forever will be now.
I would and could have called the night perfect with just Rob’s performance. Combined with the surprise wonder of K. Phillips, and a gorgeous show from Counting Crows, I’m leaving on cloud 9. This show is something to see.