Admittedly I don't share the same circles as Rob Thomas. The only thing I really knew about him was that he was a singer in the band Matchbox Twenty, but I wasn't a fan, so I didn't give them much consideration. However, I very much liked his duet with Carlos Santana on the hit single "Smooth" from Santana's Grammy-winning album Supernatural. Based upon further review, Thomas appears to enjoy collaborating with many singers and performers. And if he doesn't handle the vocals, it's not a big deal; Thomas' songwriting abilities have helped him establish a reputable solo career, and the guy seems like he wants to entertain as well as play good music.
This desire to please is apparent when viewing his live concert, recorded during the tour of his ...Something to Be album, Thomas' first as a solo artist. The album was well received, debuting at the top of the Billboard album charts. The performance itself first appeared in June 2007 as part of the Soundstage series aired on PBS. Filmed at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado, the set list is as follows:
"Something to Be"
"Fallin' to Pieces"
"If You're Gone"
"When the Heartache Ends"
"Ever the Same"
"Not Just a Woman"
"You Won't Be Mine"
"Lonely No More"
"I Am An Illusion"
"Now Comes the Night"
"You Know Me"
"This is How a Heart Breaks"
Now at the time of this concert, Thomas didn't have a lot of his own material to work with, and he plays most of the songs from the debut album, but he does manage to perform some of the other stuff that made him famous too. In fact, he performs an acoustic version of "Smooth" with some accompanying vocals that sounds good in its reinterpreted form. And the way he sings the David Bowie song "Let's Dance" is intriguing and pleasantly surprising. That passion and enthusiasm transfer to the other facets of the show as well. The hits sound good, and in some of the lesser-known songs like "I Am an Illusion," you enjoy what he's trying to do with his music.
It's that passion, combined with Thomas' creativity to change things up in his music backed by his powerful singing that place him in a unique situation. He's worked with everyone from Willie Nelson to Miley Cyrus; on this performance at Red Rocks, you can see the inklings of a guy who could transform himself into a force within the rock/adult contemporary genres. While it's a little unfair to say, because his success with Matchbox Twenty plays a part in his popularity, it's fun to see him at the beginning of a new phase of his work. He's capable of following in the footsteps of Rod Stewart and other vocalists; it'll be interesting to see if he can take his career to that level.
E1 presents the concert in 1.78:1 widescreen and in 1080i high definition, in step with any high definition presentation aired by PBS. The AVC-encoded concert appears to have been shot in HD and looks great; blacks are solid and image detail is adequate. Background shadows look fine, and you can discern the supporting musicians along with any crowd shots that look out from the stage. Occasionally there are pixel issues with the backlights but it's not distracting. Overall, the concert looks excellent on Blu-ray.
The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio lossless soundtrack delivers the goods. Thomas' vocals are strong in the center channel and balanced, requiring little compensation. Guitars sound clear in the other front channels, and the drums provide a nice thump in the performance without abundant subwoofer use. The music provides a nice level of immersion that makes the viewer feel as if they're part of the concert, and fans will certainly enjoy this lossless boost in the tunes.
The only extra is a video for the song "Streetcorner Symphony," (3:46) which is in widescreen but unfortunately comes with two-channel audio only.
This performance from Rob Thomas' Something to Be tour is capable, and for a newbie like me, was fun to watch. The disc was a winner in the technical aspects, but the only thing that restrains me from a full-blown endorsement is the lack of any substantial extras. However, fans of Thomas should (and will) enjoy the concert and shouldn't hesitate picking this up. Outsiders should definitely give this a chance, as you may be seeing Rob Thomas' solo work for years to follow.