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Matchbox Twenty struggled valiantly last night to ignite a spark of rock n roll under a rather soggy London crowd.

Following a damp first half of their set, in which the band sounded tight and well rehearsed but lacked any real ardour, the band eventually managed to fan the flames in their fans breasts for a blazing finale.

The US rockers started cold at the Hammersmith Apollo – an 8.30pm start with no warm up acts – but started big, with Parade, Bent and Disease all sounding punchy enough to fill a stadium. But there was no real spirit behind the act, and a crowd slightly thin on the ground reflected the lacklustre spirit of the group, with the great songs and wonderful hooks failing to stoke any real passion.

A little momentum was gained when they “took it back to ‘96” with 3am, Real World and Girl Like that, slowing it down but cranking up the emotion with If You’re Gone. However, new single Overjoyed received a less than joyous reception and the evening threatened to fall flat.

Frontman Rob Thomas, swaggering for all he was worth, tried to ramp up the enthusiasm, asking the crowd to show the band the reason they should be “anglophiles”. But the resultant cheers seemed weak in front of an ensemble who seemed to be showing their age.

Then, following Long Day and Unwell, Thomas launched into a spiel on radio; nostalgia hitting all the right notes as he harked back to the age of cassette tapes, car rides with girls and hearing the perfect song at the perfect moment. As if a switch had been flipped, the audience got behind the evening, as Radio itself segued into a minute of The Faces’ Stay With Me, before morphing once again into So Sad, So Lonely.

Suddenly, it seemed the band had been given the free rein they needed, most notably lead guitarist Kyle Cook, who took the final song on a several minute rock solo detour, really amping up the performance.

Bright lights closed out the start of the set, melancholy and wistful with Thomas on piano, before the band kicked off the encore with Back to Good, and a touching, acoustic led and countrified version of Hang, featuring Cook on vocals for the chorus. That crowd favourite segued seamlessly into The Eagles’ Peaceful Easy Feeling, before the set closed out with a rowdy rendition of Jumping Jack Flash, cementing a true turnaround performance from band and crowd alike.

The night was truly a set of two halves, its 24 songs almost perfectly divided between understated start and overwhelming finish. A damp squib ended in a true crossfire hurricane.

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