Rob Thomas, best known as the frontman for Matchbox Twenty, played an extraordinary concert at Samala showroom in the Chumash Casino Resort, Friday night, March 29th. Not only was the show sold out long ago, but it was the largest audience at the venue since Stevie Wonder played there a few years ago. Music fans filled every nook and cranny of the showroom for the one-off concert.

The event was organized as a benefit for Thomas’s pet (pun intended) project, the Sidewalk Angels Foundation. According to the organization’s website, the foundation “is dedicated to providing critically needed funds and support to over 20 no-kill animal shelters and animal rescues, across the country, that helps to fight for the rights and fair treatment of those with no voice.” (This reviewers two feral cats rescued by one of these shelters in Los Angeles are looking on approvingly as I write this review.)

The concert in Santa Ynez was a spectacular production, and a preview of  Thomas recently announced a summer tour, which begins on May 28th in New Jersey. The show featured the state of the art sound system, lighting, and live video displayed on giant screens that local music fans have come to expect at the Chumash Casino Resort. An animated Thomas fronted a band of no less than eight veteran musicians all of whom took turns wowing the crowd with solos and strong trade-offs of signature licks.

Thomas played much of his solo material, including songs for his upcoming album (Chip Tooth Smile), which will be released on April 26th. One song from the album “One Less Day (Dying Young),” which has already been released, was a particularly riveting moment for the enraptured Samala showroom audience. The song featured a bit of Celtic inspired dance music at the end which brought the capacity audience to their feet for some toe-tapping. Coming a week of Flogging Molly at the same venue and two weeks after St Patrick’s day it seemed the Irish theme was strongly represented at the Santa Ynez resort throughout the month. Thomas displayed his remarkable storytelling techniques introducing the profoundly personal songs from his solo albums with intriguing stories of how they came to be written. Of course, he played some of the Matchbox Twenty hits, but reworked and sometimes in acoustic form. Thomas also led the band in a riveting extended cover of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” featuring thundering solos from various members of the band. Thomas also played the hit song “Smooth” that he recorded with Carlos Santana in 1999, endearing him to a completely different generation of new fans.

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