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Rob Thomas charms a small crowd at Sprint Center benefit

Rob Thomas
Rob Thomas Kansas City Star file photo

The Sprint Center didn’t look like its usual self Monday night. Rows of large tables filled the floor, as if set up for a wedding reception. Instead, Monday’s show, headlined by Rob Thomas, was a benefit for Literacy Kansas City and reStart, which assists the homeless in Kansas City.

About 1,500 attended, a small crowd by arena standards, but for nearly two hours, Thomas and his seven-piece band, which included three back-up singers, performed as if the place were full.

The lead singer of Matchbox Twenty focused mostly on his solo career, which comprises two albums plus “The Great Unknown,” to be released later this year. His solo material doesn’t stray far from the sounds and formulas of his Matchbox Twenty hits. It’s all melodic and groovy, homogenized and radio-ready.

He opened with “Give Me the Meltdown,” a prototypical adult-alternative rock anthem about a relationship in a state of dysfunction. He followed that with “Fallin’ to Pieces,” a funk-light ballad in which the singer offers comfort to someone who needs mending. Then came “Lonely No More,” his only Top 10 solo hit, now 10 years old.

In May, Thomas released “Trust You,” the first single off “The Great Unknown” and a song he co-wrote with Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic. It has only been out a few weeks, but his audience, which at times made the noise of a crowd twice its size, recognized it, and many sang along, as if it were a longtime hit. Thomas complained about the heat and his allergies, evident when he spoke between songs but not when he sang.

He played acoustic and electric guitar on several songs and the piano on others. Things got a little country a few times. During “Wind It Up,” one of his guitarists played some banjo. Even better, “3 A.M.,” one of Matchbox Twenty’s biggest hits, included some lovely pedal steel, which returned later during “I Am an Illusion,” a stormy rock anthem.

The show peaked during the encore, when Thomas returned to the Matchbox catalog with “Unwell.” He followed that with “Smooth,” the song that became one of Carlos Santana’s biggest hits. After that, the finale was a bit anti-climactic: “This Is How a Heart Breaks,” a track from his first solo album. When that was done, he and the band took their bows and Thomas stopped to sign autographs for a small throng of fans up front — some of the many in the Sprint Center who had a good time for a good cause.

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to tfinn@kcstar.com. Follow the Back to Rockville blog on Twitter @kcstarrockville.

SET LIST

Give Me the Meltdown; Fallin’ to Pieces; Lonely No More; Real World ’09; Mockingbird; Trust You; Cradlesong; Sunday Morning/New York Blue; Her Diamonds; One Shot; Ever the Same; Someday; Fire on the Mountain; Wind It Up; Streetcorner Symphony; 3 A.M.; Little Wonders; I Am an Illusion; Unwell; Smooth; This Is How a Heart Breaks.

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