CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Touring these days is a lot more comfortable for Matchbox Twenty, singer Rob Thomas said. "We all have our own buses," he explained. "It's a lot more family; there are a lot more kids out on the road."It's more fun than it's ever been."The band behind such monster hits as "Push," "3 AM," "Unwell" and "How Far We've Come" is on the road with fellow pop rockers the Goo Goo Dolls in support of its latest album, "North." The show stops at the Charleston Civic Center Wednesday. They (and opening act Kate Earl) have been on the road together since late June, but it's only a fraction of Matchbox Twenty's overall tour. The band, which formed in 1995, has been on the road since October and will be out through the end of this year, said Thomas.Shows have ranged from the 90-minute set the group is playing at large arenas on this leg of the tour to occasional 21/2-hour affairs at more intimate theaters earlier in the tour. The band has plenty of material to choose from to fill the time."North," released last August, is Matchbox Twenty's fourth studio album. The band also released "Exile on Mainstream" in 2007, which contained six new songs in addition to 11 of its hits."That [choosing the set list] is one of our hardest things," Thomas said.There are some no-brainers to include, of course."If we do a show and don't play '3 AM' or 'Push' at some point, we'll get lynched. There are some songs that people want to hear."Though the band is obviously excited about its latest album, the guys are sympathetic to what fans want.
"We try to make it a good mix of album tracks from previous years and some of the new stuff," Thomas said."I hate going to see a band when all they do is play their new album."Judging from published set lists thus far, the band seems to be working a 30/70 split with an 18-19-song set that includes six tunes from "North" (including singles "She's So Mean" and "Our Song" as well as Thomas' current favorite to play, "I Will") and the rest mainly hits.This leg of the tour ends Aug. 29 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and when it does, the Goo Goo Dolls better be prepared. Matchbox Twenty are pranksters, and "no one has ever escaped unscathed from us," Thomas said with a laugh.The guys save their pranks for the final show, and they've had some doozies, including flooding Sugar Ray with ping-pong balls and sending ninjas on stage during a tour in 2003.
Thomas' favorite is a prank pulled on a band they toured with once in Australia, The Feelers."We had a cop come arrest them and drive them out to the middle of nowhere," he said. "Then, he handed them a note that said, 'Matchbox Twenty says you're screwed.'" They had to get out and walk back."It's funny; he [the cop] told them, 'You're under arrest because we found drugs in your room.' They didn't question it..."After Halifax, Matchbox Twenty will then take a short break before heading out on a string of international shows, and the Goo Goo Dolls will play a few dates in the States in September before heading to the UK in October.Then, in December, the Matchbox Twenty guys better put their guards up as they could face possible retaliation. On Dec. 6-9, they'll reunite with the Goo Goo Dolls for a cruise in the Bahamas.Presumably, they'll be in closer quarters there. Thomas said as the tour is now, the two bands actually don't see much of each other.
"I try to find time during their set to catch as much of their show as I can, but while they're playing, we're getting ready," he said.Sometimes, the Goo Goo Dolls will watch some of his band's set, Thomas added, but other times they're already on their tour buses bound for the next stop when Matchbox Twenty finishes."We cross paths during the day - we have dinner together and hang out," he said, "but we're ships passing in the night when we're working."And though it's fun, touring and performing is indeed work. Matchbox Twenty is committed to putting on the best show possible."We've always considered ourselves a live band. That's what we do," Thomas said. "We want every night to be an experience."We know what it's like when we go see a band we like - the anticipation of coming in, standing in line, getting to our seats, listening to the [opening] bands."We want that experience to be awesome all the way through."Reach Amy Robinsonat email@example.com