Arizona Fall Frenzy Friday: Cougars On The Loose!

Categories: Concert Review
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Benjamin Leatherman
Some of the many couga...uh, ladies who came out to Fall Frenzy's opening night to swoon over Rob Thomas. Stay tuned for more coverage today.
​Call it "Cougar Night." 

Arizona Fall Frenzy started out with the rock lite line-up Friday night at Tempe Beach Park, and, as expected, there were plenty of moms mixed in with the usual 20- and 30-something music fest crowd. 

It's hard to believe headliner Rob Thomas, of Matchbox Twenty fame, is now one of the kings of the pop lite category, singing about "brothers and sisters of every different color" in "Streetcorner Symphony," but he sure sold it with his show opener, the upbeat "Real World '09." He might lack Jason Mraz's charisma (he oddly kept calling the crowd "baby"), but his vocals were crystal clear and impressive. It's evident he's really found his niche in pop. (Read about why women like rob Thomas, and men don't, here).

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Jonathan McNamara
Rob Thomas. See more shots in our Arizona Fall Frenzy slide show.
​Still, it was sort of uncomfortable to watch Thomas step away from playing guitar or piano and try to boogie. The guy should still keep a little rock side to him.

The crowd was full of Thomas fans, who sang along to tracks like "Lonely No More," "Little Wonders" and "Smooth." He also played some music off his new album, Cradlesong. This was his first show behind the new album.

Thomas definitely has the hits to deserve a spot on the festival, but the headlining gig just seemed a little unjustified because he lacks star quality. He even admitted, "My heart is with Matchbox Twenty." Maybe he should bring his pop sensibilities to the band, because he doesn't quite command the stage as a solo artist.

The same could be said for Gavin Rossdale, who played a set that was disappointingly boring. The former Bush frontman was awkward and really only had his best moments when he played Bush tracks, such as "The Chemicals Between Us" and "Machinehead." During quiet moments in-between songs, no one really cheered, and Rossdale seemed underconfident. He's probably not used to opening for acts like the B-52's. Still, you can't deny he's a heartthrob, and plenty of women were clawing him when he jumped in the crowd and bizarrely danced. Sadly, Rossdale's wife Gwen Stefani was nowhere to be seen.

It was moments like Rossdale's performance that made me sad the festival didn't feature any small stages to check out. It would have been great to have a local music stage, but you can see some hometown acts, including Telescope and Slowpoke, on Sunday. The most-fun-band-of-the-night award goes to the B-52's, who looked super-fabulous and still have it going on after more than 30 years of performing. The band came out in funky outfits, with singer Fred Schneider wearing sunglasses and, at one point, an afro wig. The band, like the rest of the line-up, played for about an hour, showcasing tracks spanning their entire career. The group really hyped up the crowd, who danced and sang along to tracks such as "Roam" and "Party Out of Bounds."

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