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“Uncle Rob”

Tomorrow night, my husband and I will go see Rob Thomas in concert. My children refer to him as “Uncle Rob,” though none of them have met him.

I’ve seen Rob play more than any other musician (this is if you count matchbox twenty concerts as well as solo performances). This will be #7. I last saw him in November 2009, when he was touring for Cradlesong. Back when I still had my Letters to Rob site, this is what I wrote about that show:

Dear Rob,

Yes, yes, I know you’ve been waiting to hear what I thought, etc. etc. Well, let’s see . . . I missed Carolina Liar’s set due to the rabid inefficiencies of the merchandise table coupled with herd mentality bent around today’s ego-centric mindset. Sigh. But I did really enjoy OneRepublic’s set. I’d heard a couple of their songs on the radio, but after hearing them last night I think I will definitely need to buy the album when it drops next week. (Why do albums “drop” anyway?)

As for you. Good work opening with “Fire on the Mountain” as per one of my previous suggestions. But your clothes, dah-ling, tsk tsk. You were trying to provoke me with that jacket, but I knew better because it gets hot enough fast enough up there that you were sure to shed it quickly (and you did). The jeans weren’t flattering, though, hon. Part of the problem being where your t-shirt fell; it made an uncomely sight line. And we just won’t even talk about the muddy mix of colors involved.

Well, on to the show itself. I did especially like “Getting Late,” which is one of my favorites off the new album. (Aside: Alexander likes to ask what songs are about, and when he asked about that one, I softened it a bit and told him it was about getting old. “And dying?” he asked. Christ. If he’s this smart at four, what will he be like at six? Or sixteen?) Nice segue into the Elvis bit, and I admit to having a particular liking for steel guitar, so . . . Also loved that you performed “Little Wonders,” which makes me think of my kids and so I always tear up when I hear it. (Aside: Alex calls it “the umbrella song” because of the video.) Just as you talked about being frustrated with Tyler, I’ve had my share of frustrations with being up with the baby at night, etc. “Little Wonders” is a nice reminder that they won’t be little forever, so I should savor the moments while I can.

“Not Just a Woman” is another song I really like. And how did you know “Dancing in the Dark” is my favorite Boss song?

Oh, but “Sunday Morning New York Blue” (that’s a long title, should I shorten it to “SMNYB”?)—really nice little song. There was something about it that reminded me of Jimmy Buffett for some reason. Not the sound necessarily, but maybe the sentiment? Jimmy has made a career of capturing moments like that, for making people feel like they’ve lived those moments, even if they haven’t really. That takes talent—which you have in spades—but also careful crafting, which you are clearly capable of.

I was also pleased to hear “Ever the Same” back in acoustic form. I know I’ve given you a hard time about that song in the past (and boy did your fans rake me over the coals for it!), but I still cannot love it. As I’ve said before, it requires too much understanding of the author’s situation to completely appreciate it. It’s really too personal to be universal. It’s pretty—and much, much better when done in acoustic style (which is how I first heard it back in 2004 at the China Club)—but it doesn’t resonate as much. It requires too much vicarious sentiment from the listener.

Now, I had wondered how you would handle the brass on “Wonderful,” and it seems you chose to do it by cutting the song down to brass tacks. While I still prefer the album version, I could totally see Sheryl Crow doing a cover of the one you played last night.

Finally, we need to talk about the lame animations that go on behind you during the show. They all look like bad Microsoft screen savers. Excepting, perhaps, the one that plays while you sing “Cradlesong,” they’re just awful. Go find something better and post it online somewhere so I can see it and stop thinking badly of your stage aesthetics.

Anyway, unrelated but tacked on nonetheless: you’d mentioned on your site something about whether “Give Me the Meltdown,” “Mockingbird” or “Real World ’09” should be the next single. Well, fans will choose “Meltdown,” surely, and I really like it, too. But I’m partial to “Mockingbird” myself. Although I have one bone to pick with it: the first couple lines about standing “somewhere in between this moment and the end.” That’s not true. You don’t stand between the moment you’re in and the future. You stand IN the moment you’re in. Unless you’re somehow inhabiting a space that is slightly ahead of the current moment in time?

Okay, well, good show. I was sitting by Maison and his friend, btw. Had no idea who they were, of course, but felt bad when the event staff guy came and said, “Come with me, boys.” I was like, Hey! They weren’t causing any trouble! But then, as it turned out, they weren’t being removed for having caused any trouble. They were, in fact, very well-mannered boys.

Speaking of which, I must go take care of my littlest one now. Best of luck on the remainder of your tour.

I’m hardest on the ones I love most, no question. Hardest on myself, actually, but nearly as tough on the ones who mean a lot to me. I was a reviewer for online magazines for a while, and the books and music and movies and shows that weren’t worth the effort were many. But the diamonds in the coal . . . They just sometimes need a little polishing, a little nicer cut. I don’t do it to be mean. I do it because there are things and people I admire, things and people who are at least as good as I am if not better, but their being told all that doesn’t help them. Their being told where the problems are so they can fix them—that’s useful. Or at least allows for interesting talking points and discussion. Telling someone they’re wonderful is a sure way to end a conversation, after all.

Not that we don’t all like to hear that once in a while. But only when it means something. Because of inflation, a yes man’s “yes” carries no weight. And since I work in words, I like to make mine worth something.

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Writer/Screenwriter

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