Alanis Morissette and Matchbox Twenty concert review

Alanis Morissette and Matchbox Twenty

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We all have to do things we don’t want to do at work sometimes.

As a music writer, that means listening to bands and going to concerts that you never, ever would otherwise. But we’re professionals, dammit, and we get paid for this, so we suck it up.

Thus did I found myself Sunday night in the Norfolk Scope Arena while icy winds whipped through downtown and a new episode of “The Wire” was on, sitting in the first row waiting for Alanis Morissette and Matchbox Twenty to grace the stage.

The front row, mind you. I’ve been reviewing shows for a lot of years, and have never once gotten a media ticket in the front row. Why did it have to be this one? Now, I have nothing against these artists. I even liked Alanis back the day. But again, if not for the paycheck I wouldn’t be here.

First things first, Alanis is kind of a babe in person. For one, she’s really curvy. Somehow in all those videos from the late ‘90s, I always thought of her as a tall, willowy hippie chick. Turns out she’s really a hip-py chick (ba dum bum. You gotta have something to occupy your mind during these shows.) Also, she can really belt it out. Whatever you think of her music, she’s got an amazing voice that can really fill an arena, seemingly without a lot of effort. She’s a charming performer, too, doing that little clap after the song and holding her hands to her lips like she’s overcome by everyone clapping. Hokey, maybe, but nice.

Her band was inoffensive, and sharply dressed (everyone in shirts and ties). At least she resisted the temptation to do a strictly greatest-hits set. They were sprinkled throughout, of course (“Hand in My Pocket,” “You Learn,” “Thank U,”) but it was 50 minutes in before she played two songs I knew back-to-back. She said all the dirty words in “You Oughta Know,” but that song has lost its power to shock. And seeing Kevin perform a karaoke version on “The Office” may just have ruined it forever anyway.

Most of the crowd was there for hit-making machine that is (or was) Matchbox Twenty. You, dear reader, could probably write this part of the review yourself (but don’t, I have to eat). They played everything you would expect -- “Push,” “3 A.M.,” “Long Day,” “Real World,” “Unwell,” “Back 2 Good,” blah blah blah. A still-svelte (and shorn) Rob Thomas told the crowd they hadn’t played “Argue” in seven years until recently. You couldn’t tell -- it was played just as professionally as everything else. I was impressed with guitarist Paul Doucette, an impish redhead who played guitar and organ as well as some singing, especially considering he recently stepped out from behind the drums.

If there was a surprise here, it’s that the band’s new material, from an EP included with the hits package Exile On Mainstream, was exceptional. The songs, including “If I Fall,” “I’ll Believe You When,” “How Far We’ve Come” and “All Your Reasons,” are good, poppy fun, with chiming guitars and “oooh oooh” and “ba da da” choruses. The band may be getting better as they go along, and as they sell less records. Maybe they’ll end up on some indie label, making raw, emotional music like at the end of “Rock Star” when Mark Wahlberg turned into a grunge rocker.

Or not. I won’t be there, unless I have to.

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