With swift set changes between bands, and minimal sponsor plugs, MixFest 2007 was an almost uninterrupted four and half hours of music. Twice between sets, the DJs of Mix 98.5 offered seat upgrades to a lucky fan who sent a text message care of sponsor Dunkin’ Donuts, but when they called out the name of the winner of the upgrade, it was hard to tell if that person was even in the arena. It seemed like a useless gesture anyway because nobody stopped a stampede of freeloaders who rushed the stage from Colbie Caillat to Matchbox Twenty. So if whoever won the seat upgrade took advantage of it, they had to compete for a view of the stage with a couple dozen other people who took their own initiative to upgrade their seat to the front row.
The music between sets were music videos by BeyoncÃ© (“to the left, to the left,”) Plain White T’s, and Fergie, plus Who Knew by Pink and for whatever reason, snippets of Barenaked Ladies classic The Old Apartment but never the whole song.
Matchbox Twenty nonchalantly took the stage and launched into Long Day. Theirs was a laid-back reunion, the first of a handful of tour dates in promotion of their greatest hits set Exile on Mainstream.
Their set was a rousing singalong from start to finish and the crowd was very into it. Thomas, himself, was a bundle of good vibrations. He danced to the beat of the music, engaging the crowd with winks and expressions of delight perfectly captured on the video screens (and likely hundreds of camera phones.) He\”s an ultra-expressive performer, it pays to be close enough to watch his face as well as his grooves. But the thing that struck most about Matchbox Twenty\”s leading man is how normal he seems, the guy next door type. He came across instantly approachable and likable. He chatted a lot during the set, as much to his bandmates as to the crowd, and whizzed through familiar songs like 3am and If You’re Gone.
New tracks held up well against the old material, but amazingly, they seemed to have a more relaxed bent than some of the older songs. The lyrics to How Far We’ve Come seem like the typical Matchbox Twenty downer ballad, but the energy and the pulse of the song just don\”t fit their old image the way Unwell and Bent perfectly encapsulated it. And they wedged the downright playful song I’ll Believe You When in between Bright Lights and the set closer Push. The energy picked up further into the set, especially Real World, Back to Good. A middle-aged woman in the crowd took center stage at the bottom of the stairs at section 114, using her fist as a microphone, gyrating and waving and imploring for attention from Rob Thomas, and when that didn’t work, turning her attention to the audience behind her. She was so hysterical, she kept waving for whomever she was with to join her “on stage,” and that person shrunk done further in his seat the longer she stayed at her mark.
Thomas introduced an extended jam version of Bright Lights with a few lines of Please Come to Boston (a song Joan Baez made famous). The song also featured Kyle Cook and Paul Doucette (who moved off of the drums and is now playing guitar) taking turns on lead vocals.
Daughtry was an energetic warm-up act for Matchbox Twenty. Chris Daughtry was a force on stage, sexy and personable all at once, riveting to take in. There is no way to understate how much of a turn-on his performance was, all the way up the last song. He engaged the audience to sing with him, it worked better on the new single Over You than earlier in the set. But if nothing else, it proved that Chris Daughtry, the almost-American Idol, was no fluke. His stage presence and soulful hard rock was custom-tailored for mainstream.
Daughtry mixed some radio-friendly tunes It’s Not Over and Home over the course of the set, and added in a fine cover of Alice in Chains Nutshell. What About Now proved even their balladry was impressive. During Nutshell, and the set closing There and Back Again, Daughtry left the stage to send the attention to the rest of the band. Overall, from the lighting to the simple red curtains in the backset, everything about this forty-five minute performance worked.
The only downside was a painfully extended version of There and Back Again that seared your ears. But it came at the end of the set, and keep this in perspective: who needs to hear when you can’t take your eyes of Daughtry?
Local news anchor Maria Stephanos put in an appearance with Mix 98.5 DJ Gregg Daniels. Her voice was painful high-pitched, nails on the chalkboard, it was hard to imagine that she’s a nightly news anchor on Fox. Daniels, somehow, was even more annoying. He put on a Red Sox jersey seemingly for the whole purpose of getting the hometown crowd to cheer. (The Sox were losing at the time to the Minnesota Twins, though they eventually won the game.)
Mat Kearney‘s unremarkable twenty-minute set featured Undeniable, his breakout single, and Breathe In, Breathe Out which he introduced as “a song for doctors to make out to” because it was picked up by Grey\”s Anatomy. But it didn\”t matter because nothing in his set stood out. Kearney and his band seemed fixed in place. Granted, it was a tight space, a small stage to begin with and two bands’ worth of instruments still packed away behind them. But there was something decidedly perfunctory about the whole affair. Rather than embracing a chance to play for a crowd who was less familiar with him, he seemed to be just putting in the time until the next act.
Kearney called out Boston a number of times within the songs, modifying a short interlude during Undeniable to rap about MixFest, the Red Sox and Boston. The crowd cheered, but he might as well have yelled “Yankees sucked” because it wasn\”t the music they were reacting to. A few points for stage presence, but charming, he was not.
Before Mat Kearney’s set, the DJ’s Daniels and Fast Freddy, asked the crowd for someone who wanted to introduce Kearney. They pointed out a woman on the floor about half-way back of the arena, calling to her, “Come up here, Jiggles!” The lady, a heavy-set woman in her late thirties, raced up like a little school girl, seemingly oblivious to the insult. Then, she came out on stage to make the announcement, and Daniels implored her to dance again, saying it was seeing the dance was the reason he picked her out of the crowd. Nancy “Jiggles” from Taunton, MA was a bundle of energy, made a great introduction, even stumbling over Mat Kearney’s name. A minute later, as Kearney launched into her set, we saw Jiggles walk by our row on her way to the concession stand. Apparently, not a fan.
Even a relatively small venue like Agganis Arena was too big for the voice of Colbie Caillat. She was absolutely swallowed up by the acoustics, and her vocals weren\”t that strong to begin with. She arrived on stage preceded by a 5 piece band, in a minuscule black dress that was one inch (on top and on bottom) from being a whore. Plus, it was a poor fit and more than once, she stepped out of the spotlight to adjust her dress. She lacked any stage presence at all, and on the video screen, no amount of make-up could hide her bad skin, her face riddled with acne.
There was nothing great about her material, mostly Vegas lounge act, washed out high notes and lifeless songs. Her bassist handled the material better in falsetto than her vocals. When she introduced the tune The Little Things my friend leaned over to me and said, “Like her dress.” She started to introduce the new single, Realize, but was interrupted by a heckler in the front row, probably calling out to her that he could see straight up her dress. Her response was a bubbly “Thank you!”
The last song of her set, the “hit” Bubbly, was the only time when she put on a show, channeling a little bit of Jewel. The rest was just filler.
With little fanfare, Gregg Daniels and Lady D of Mix 98.5 in Boston, MA, introduced Blue October as the opening act of MixFest 2007. My friend described the two DJs as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and What Not to Wear on the stage all at once. Fortunately, they were only there for the sponsor’s plug which included, strangely enough, Land O’Lakes cheese.
Blue October sounded great. The material from the last album Foiled forces Justin Furstenfeld to sing, which he can do, but hasn\”t done enough of in earlier concert outings. They opened MixFest to a tiny percentage of the 7000+ capacity crowd, but gave a tight and energized performance for those smart enough to arrive on time. Calling You was absolutely gorgeous. Furstenfeld\”s stylized vocals only faltered at the end. He took to saying the lyrics to Hate Me instead of singing them. But the song is heart-wrenching and it capped a brief, but thoroughly satisfying, ride.
I hope it was the band’s choice to go early rather than a function of being the least well known of the bunch. Though I concede it was probably the latter explanation for how they pulled the 7pm start time, it was a bit of a disappointment to only hear 5 songs. And since Blue October were vastly better than the two acts that followed, it really made the decision questionable.
Nevertheless, it was a great mix of music.