A blog about me and my adventure as an ex-pat.
Because someone told me to... Thank you Gaby.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Valentines and a gig

We just spent our first Valentines in the US. Last year, the kids and I headed back to England for a couple of weeks and Jeremy went away to Florida with work.

As with all holidays, the Americans do a good job of Valentines. Everywhere you go there are decorations, chocolates and candies for sale and of course cards. 

The kids have parties at school and hand out Valentines to their friends - usually a little card and maybe some sweeties. We were a bit bar humbug and we weren't sure if they did anything at preschool. We got our kids a card and some sweets (consumed alongside a bowl of cereal at breakfast) but didn't hand anything out at school. Thankfully, it seems neither did any of their friends (there are 30 or 40 kids in each of their classes) but they did come home with an envelope of cards from their teachers:

Jeremy and I exchanged presents and cards. It might be a commercially driven holiday but it is still nice to have a special treat and be spoilt! We also went to a gig at the local university. I get the feeling that it normally only hosts theatre shows but this week Matchbox twenty came to town and they rocked the auditorium! They are an American rock band who rose to fame in the late nineties and were pretty big over here but not so much in England. I heard about them through a friend and absolutely love them. They are my go to for long car journeys, a mix of loud rock anthems and soft ballads. 

Here is what our local 'paper' had to say about the gig: 

KALAMAZOO, MI -- A little more than halfway through a two-hour set at Miller Auditorium, Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas grabbed the cell phone of a woman in the front row.
He proceeded to record video of each member of the band as they played "So Sad So Lonely." At one point, he laid on his back and filmed guitarist Kyle Cook's solo. And yes, he eventually handed to camera back to the woman before finishing the song.
It was one of a handful of moments during the concert the band played off the sold-out audience. The band rarely strayed from sets of previous concerts on this tour with "American Idol" winner and opener Phillip Phillips, but it did deviate near the end and mixed in some surprising crowd interactions.
Maybe something was in the air on Valentine's Day eve -- also the day before Thomas turned 41. At one point, guitarist Paul Doucette grabbed the microphone to tell the crowd Thursday would be Thomas' birthday. The audience cheerfully shouted "happy birthday" to him.
Dressed in black jeans and a black button-up shirt for most of the show, Thomas seemed to embrace the evening. At points he reflected on the band's 17-year career and thanked fans for give them "the best job in the world." He also sucked up to the city.
"Of all the city's we've played, Kalamazoo is the most fun to say," Thomas said.
Earlier in the concert, he encouraged everyone to "celebrate life at WMU."
The night was loaded with accessible pop-rock from the band's 1996 debut to its 2012 release, "North," which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Top 200.  When the group broke into hits from "Yourself or Someone Like You," Thomas let the audience know they were turning it back to the mid-'90s.
The couples to my left loved the band in high school but never saw Thomas and Co. live until now. It was a Valentine's Day gift.
Thomas referenced making mixtapes as a teenager in his bedroom as a way to get lucky on a date, a notion sections of the crowd applauded. At points, it felt like a high school reunion and a first date rolled into one.
The band -- Thomas, Cook, Doucette, bassist Brian Yale, guitarist Matt Beck and drummer Stacy Jones -- provided a polished, efficient delivery. They have the show down to a science. Outside of a some occasional banter, Matchbox Twenty moved quickly from song-to-song. It opened with "Parade" and followed with "Bent" and "Disease."
Matchbox Twenty slowed things down with "If You're Gone" and "Overjoyed," followed soon after by "Our Song" and "Long Day." Thomas introduced "I Will" as his favorite track on the new album.
For couples on a date night, it provided some cuddle time.
The set concluded on a relatively mellow note with "Bright Lights," but the members returned for a pair of encores that included "Sleeping at the Wheel," "You're So Real," "Back to Good" and a cover of R.E.M.'s "The One I Love."
The concert closed with the hit, "Push." A few couples at the center of the auditorium linked arms as swayed as Thomas sang ironic, un-Cupid-like lyrics such as "I want to take you for granted" and "I don't know if I've ever really been loved."
Out of context, it seemed odd, but for those looking to rekindle the excitement of Matchbox Twenty's mid-'90s explosion onto the music scene -- presumably the soundtrack of earlier romance -- it made perfect sense.
Before the band made its final bow, Doucette invited a boy on stage to do the honors with the rest of the band. The crowd ate it up.
"American Idol" winner Phillip Phillips opened the night promptly at 7:30 p.m. and performed five singles with the help of a guitarist, percussionist and cellist.
In addition to a cover of Michael Jackson's "Thriller," the Georgia songwriter Phillips and his band busted out a funky, moonshine-soaked introduction to his hit, "Home." The crowd appreciated the fresh take on the popular song, standing and clapping before the lights flipped on, abruptly ending his set.

And a video shot partly by a fan in the front row and partly by the lead singer of the band who took her phone round the stage!:

We had a fantastic time. I am still recovering from the flu, but managed to dance for the whole two hours. I lost my voice halfway through and needless to say I was exhausted the next day, but it was so worth it! At times it felt surreal, I have never seen them live, in person or on tv but have listened to their albums so many times. It was kind of weird to see them singing and playing the songs I love, but very exciting too. If they played one of my favourite songs, I jumped up and down and waved my arms in the air... You are never too old to enjoy a good concert! I loved being there with Jeremy and it was a fun, intimate gig (having orchestra seats helped!) and they are a band who are truly grateful to their fans, who are not pretentious and just wanted to give us all a music filled, action packed show! And they did. Thank you guys! 

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