meta-scriptBehind Matchbox Twenty's Biggest Hits: How A Camel, Real-Life Stunts & Happy Accidents Influenced "3AM," "Unwell," "Push" & More |
Matchbox Twenty Press Photo 2023
Matchbox Twenty

Photo: Jimmy Fontaine


Behind Matchbox Twenty's Biggest Hits: How A Camel, Real-Life Stunts & Happy Accidents Influenced "3AM," "Unwell," "Push" & More

As Matchbox Twenty set out on their extensive U.S. summer tour and release their fifth studio album, Rob Thomas and Paul Doucette share their most prominent memories from beloved songs like "Bent" and "Bright Lights."

GRAMMYs/May 16, 2023 - 05:48 pm

On May 26, Matchbox Twenty will release their first album in over a decade, Where the Light Goes. Although it's been 11 years since they've put out new music and six years since their last tour, the group is still headlining arenas and amphitheaters all around North America this summer — a testament to the power of their music.

Since their first hit, 1997's "Push," Matchbox Twenty have been a stalwart on alternative and pop radio. Whether you were tuned into those stations or not, you likely know the choruses of "3AM" or "Unwell"; if you're a fan, you can't wait to belt those songs out when they come through your city.

"Over the course of the last 30 years, these songs [have] become part of people's fabric of their day to day," frontman Rob Thomas tells "I just hope there is something on this record that affects people in ways that songs in the past have done."

Where the Light Goes' 12 tracks continue the easy-to-enjoy melodies and thoughtful songwriting that made Matchbox Twenty so beloved — proof that even nearly 30 years in, they haven't lost their touch. But even though the group is releasing new music, it's clear from sitting down with Thomas and his bandmate, Paul Doucette, that they revel in their old tunes as much as any longtime fan. 

Before Matchbox Twenty kicked off their tour on May 16, Thomas and Doucette reminisced on the band's biggest hits — from the song that saved them to the music videos that could've killed them.

"Push," Yourself or Someone Like You, 1996

Thomas: "Push" is the song that saved us. We released our record in '96, and the day that it came out was the same day that Lava, our record label, folded, and a bunch of bands got dropped. We were possibly on the list because we put out a song called "Long Day" and it didn't react the way we wanted.

While Atlantic was having a conversation about dropping us, there was a guy named Dave Rossi, who was a program director in Birmingham, Alabama, who started to play "Push" on his own, because you could do that back then. And it just started to react in Birmingham — in a crazy way, it was, like, the No. 1 song immediately. So Atlantic was like, "Well, let's give this one more chance." So then they put some money behind "Push" and put it out to radio, and that was the saving grace for us.

Doucette: When the record came out, we were just on the road all the time playing to nobody — to like, the bar staff. 

Thomas: I remember once we played, for some reason, a punk club in Arizona, and like three bands played, then when we got on stage, everybody's like "This is a f—ing pop band!" and they left for our set, and then as soon as our set was over, they filed back in.

Doucette: But when we got to Birmingham, it was different. We saw it immediately. There were people there, and there were a lot of people there. That had never happened to us before, so that was sort of the big jolt of competence that we needed. 

Thomas: That was a tangible shift from that moment on. There was a "before" and "after" "Push."

"3AM," Yourself or Someone Like You, 1996

Thomas: When we were a local band, "Push" didn't exist yet. It was a whole 'nother group of songs, because we had a really bad falling out with other members of this band Tabitha's Secret. It got really litigious and contentious, and they had made me sign over copyrights. [So] we just went and wrote another record. The only thing we brought with us was "3AM," because in the local world, "3AM" was, like, the song.

Doucette: When I auditioned for Tabitha's Secret, the first song of Rob's I ever heard was "3AM." They had a demo of it, and they played it for me. And even then, you could hear it immediately. Just, like, This is a great song.

Thomas: Yeah, imagine the "3AM" you know, but just much s—tier.

Doucette: Oh, it was pretty s—ty, but you could hear the song. You know, you never know about how a song is going to do, but you do know, like, This song hits a mark. This is just a well-written song.

Thomas: I always think of "3AM" as the first song that I wrote that I liked. It was the first song that I wrote about something that I had been going through, and using songs as a certain kind of catharsis to tell the story. "3AM" was the first part of unlocking a puzzle for me — like, Oh, okay, this feels better than just trying to write love songs to pick up girls.

"Real World," Yourself or Someone Like You, 1996

Thomas: I think that was the first time that we ever had fun coming up with video stuff.

Doucette: We wanted to do something absurdist, but we hired a fashion photographer as the director. He's great, but he was the wrong director for that video. So it didn't turn out at all like we wanted it to, but now looking back on it, you're just like, but it is pretty weird

We had a camel. It was supposed to be an aardvark originally, but an aardvark couldn't walk on bowling alley [lanes].

I think it was a case of where [we went to] the animal trainer like, "We want an aardvark," and they were like, "Ah, I can't do that. I got a camel though." Now you're looking back and going, "Wait a minute, why are those the two things that you have?"

Thomas: And that camel was lovely, by the way. That camel had such a crush on me. She kept kissing me in between takes.

"Bent," Mad Season, 2000

Thomas: "Bent" was the first single off of our second record, but it was also our first No. 1 single [on the Billboard Hot 100]. That was a good feeling for us because we had had so many people explaining to us how after that first record did so well, the sophomore slump was inevitable, so we should just enjoy the success that we've had and be ready to move on.

I do a version of that song where I play it with an acoustic guitar, which was the way that song was written. And Paul was the one who heard it the way that it is now. I remember, I'll use the word hesitation — I think my actual feeling was, Dude, you're f—in' up my song!

[The opening guitar wail] was an accident. [Kyle] thought he was in another key, and so right when they're like, "Two, three," and it was just gonna be one note, but he was wrong, so he went [imitates guitar wail]. That was what we call a happy accident.

Doucette: That first record was massively successful for us. I mean, we sold like 20 million records or something. But in between that and "Bent," Rob did "Smooth" [with Carlos Santana]. 

And so, when "Bent" was coming out and it was No. 1, this happened on more than one occasion, where we'd do an interview and people would be like, "Well, how do you feel now that Rob has done 'Smooth' and now people know who you are?" We're like, "But we sold 20 million records before that!"

Thomas: I remember before I did "Smooth," Carlos' thing was like, I like this guy [on the demo], does he sing? [Laughs]

But you can imagine, there's no social media that existed back then. Like, there wasn't a narrative — we were like the most successful faceless band in the world. We had sold all these records, [but] the first time I was ever in Rolling Stone was a picture of me, fat at Glastonbury, and it said, "Rob Thomas has grown as a performer." And then it said, "Apparently, the road to success leads to the deli tray."

"If You're Gone," Mad Season, 2000

Thomas: In that video, there's a scene where I'm hanging, like 30 stories up in downtown L.A., over the edge of this building. And I actually was on that building, I was attached to a harness. And all I kept thinking was like, Don't have an earthquake, no tremors, no tremors, no tremors. I was legitimately scared. And even my wife, [who was] my girlfriend at the time, she had come out to check in on the video shoot, and came out to the top right during that scene, and said she felt like she was having a heart attack.

That was a song that was almost a second thought. We were like, "What do you wanna work on next?" And I was like, "Well, I've got this, I think it's just a little sweet ballad, so I'm not really sure if this is something we want to work on." And then I played it, and the guys were vibin' off it. I thought it was just this personal moment that I had written for Mati, my wife, so I didn't see it for what it was. Luckily the other guys did.

"Unwell," More Than You Think You Are, 2002

Thomas: At the time, the landscape was like Ludacris [having] the No. 1 record, and we're putting out this kind of semi-midtempo song with a banjo, like, "Here, try this!" But somehow [it] worked.

Doucette: That's sort of [our] most sustained song today. I think it has less streams on Spotify than "Push" or "3AM" does, but it's definitely the one that seems to have another little life, then another little life, then another.

Thomas: I just signed off on a new rapper that's gonna use "Unwell" in the chorus of their song. It seems to have that kind of thing. 

And also, I think a lot of people relate to it on a personal level, about mental health and well-being, and being okay to not be okay. There was a message in there that resonated with a lot of people at different points in their life.

And by the way, if it wasn't for Paul, that song was gonna [have] an upbeat vibe. It was like this [sings uptempo version] and Paul was like, "Oh, dude, you're high. It's a ballad."

Doucette: Or we could've listened to you, and that song could have gone to No. 1. Maybe I prevented it.

Thomas: You got that 1990s A&R mentality.

"Bright Lights," More Than You Think You Are, 2002

Thomas: One of the things about being fortunate enough to have success is that we really had a chance, by that third record, to feel like we knew who we were as a band. And "Bright Lights" kind of felt like who we were.</span

Your first record is, people are listening to us learn how to make a record and learn how to be a band, and then second record…we're a little better at it, and we shoot for the moon and spend a lot of money on 60-piece orchestras and producing the s— out of everything. And then by the third record, you find that zone, and "Bright Lights" was a really big part of that. 

I feel like it's one of the quintessential Matchbox Twenty live moments in every show. So much so that it was the only time that we did the video [as] an actual just live performance. 

Doucette: I can't see us ever not playing that song. Of all the songs that we've had — and we've been fortunate enough to have some really big songs — that song is kind of the defining one for us.

"How Far We've Come," Exile on Mainstream, 2007

Doucette: We had gotten together to do a couple of songs for the greatest hits [album]. And it was kind of the first time that we thought we would all write songs together. We were like, "Let's start from the beginning and let's just write stuff and see what happens."

We were in Rob's basement, and we just sat and watched Live Aid. We were so, so into the Boomtown Rats and their whole performance. We just all were so inspired by the feeling that we got from watching it, and then we did some deep dives and stuff. That so informed that writing session, which all of those [new] songs on that CD came from.

Thomas: We all stayed at my house for like three or four days, and it was nice because we'd all go out to dinner and really get to hang out as a band. And then we were coming back and being more creative and collaborative than we'd ever been at the time.

I had done a solo record, and we were coming back again, and coming out with something that's different for us — taking the chance on moving forward into a different direction, and hoping that fans would be generous enough and forgiving enough to come along on that journey with us. And we were really glad when they did. That's another, I think, really crucial part of a live show for us.

"She's So Mean," North, 2012

Thomas: We were really informed from our way that we started writing during Exile [on Mainstream]. That was in Kyle's studio, we're all standing in a circle and coming up with different parts of that song. I think Kyle's was [sings] "She'll make you take her to the club, but then she leaves with her friends."

And for the official record, that's not about anyone in particular. We have had toxic relationships, and we've been toxic to other people. We've run the gamut.

Doucette: When we were writing that song…it was more a metaphor — this thing that you were attracted to that is terrible for you, but you just keep doing it. That could be anything, it could be biting your nails. Like you can't stop doing this thing that is harming you.

Thomas: Oh, actually, by the way, Paul did physically set himself on fire in the video. That was real.

Doucette: And let me tell you — what you don't see is, on each side of me were two fire marshals, and they both had extinguishers. And I was wearing a flame retardant underneath my suit. But it had its moments where I was like, "Why am I doing this?"

There was one shot that they didn't get, like the flames had kind of died, and they really wanted to use it, so they enhanced that one shot and I was so bummed because it looks fake. And I was like, "People are gonna think this thing is fake, when I did it like four times."

The funny thing about that video is, everybody got hurt except me — except the man that was on fire.

Thomas: He had a little red necker for a little while after that though.

"Wild Dogs (Running In a Slow Dream)," Where the Light Goes, 2023

Doucette: So much of what you put out as the first single, there's a lot of voices in that conversation. We wanted it to be "Wild Dogs," because we liked the energy of it. We think it's a good song that does a couple things: It's a different song than people may be used to hearing from us, but we [also] think that it showcases an element of this record. So it was kind of important for us to come out and be like, "We're still Matchbox Twenty, but things have changed a bit."

Thomas: We were done with the record, we thought. We were packing it up and getting ready to start calling mixers, and Paul came in with a track that became "Wild Dogs" just right in the fourth quarter. It seemed really special, so we were like, "Let's give it a shot." 

Gregg Wattenberg, who produced this record, really kept it lean. There was a sense of a lot of this record of not spending too much time on something to keep that kind of vitality. There's this great thing when you first write a song, and you play it just enough where you've kind of got it on your fingers, but you haven't played it so much that you're trying to craft it — you still keep some of that vitality. And Gregg was really good about finding that point in those songs and getting out before we lost the vibrance.

"Don't Get Me Wrong," Where the Light Goes, 2023

Thomas: On other records, we've never had outside writers in, and there's a couple on this record. That song is one of those — I did it with Craig Wiseman and David Garcia.

As much as I love that song, and I would have been fine with it being a single, it felt better that the first single was a song that me and Paul and Gregg wrote — even though what Matchbox as a band did to that song is the reason why it sounds the way it sounds and it has the personality that it has. Because it doesn't sound like the demo that we did originally. That's just that sense of, as we get older, that idea of like, "We like that song, it doesn't really matter who wrote on it. It's a good song — let's make it our own."

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rob thomas and santana

Rob Thomas And Carlos Santana

Photo: Vince Bucci/AFP via Getty Images


GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Santana & Rob Thomas Self-Assuredly Win Record Of The Year For "Smooth" In 2000

In the newest episode of GRAMMY Rewind, watch Santana and Rob Thomas win Record Of The Year at the 42nd GRAMMY Awards for "Smooth," the unlikely smash-hit pairing of the classic rock legend and Matchbox Twenty leader

GRAMMYs/Jul 30, 2021 - 06:56 pm

By all accounts, Santana's and Rob Thomas' 1999 megahit "Smooth" almost didn't happen. In its embryonic stages, Carlos Santana was skeptical of the tune; the AM-radio effect on Thomas's voice alone engendered its own smattering of arguments.

But in a quintessential lesson about why you should never, ever give up, "Smooth" became the second-biggest single of all time, second only to Chubby Checker's "The Twist." It also led to the 2000 GRAMMY Awards, where the unlikely pair won the GRAMMY for Record Of The Year.

In the newest episode of GRAMMY Rewind, revisit the moment 21 years ago when an unlikely gambit paid off in dividends, putting a feather in the cap of Matchbox Twenty's leader and landing a classic rocker back on the airwaves.

Check out the throwback GRAMMY moment above and click here to enjoy more episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.

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Everyone's A VIP At Clive Davis' Pre-GRAMMY Gala: From Travis Scott To Jimmy Jam To Brandi Carlile

Pass through the velvet rope at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles for an exclusive look at the star-studded 2019 Pre-GRAMMY Salute To Industry Icons

GRAMMYs/Feb 11, 2019 - 12:27 am

On Feb. 9, on the eve of Music's Biggest Night, the 61st GRAMMY Awards, artists from across genres and decades gathered at the glitzy Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif. for the 2019 Pre-GRAMMY Salute To Industry Icons.

Less than 24 hours before the big red carpet walk today, the likes of current GRAMMY nominees Ella Mai, Dua Lipa, Diplo, Shaggy, Alice Cooper and Weird Al Yankovich, and GRAMMY winners Melissa Etheridge and Quincy Jones, brought their vibrant energy and killer looks at the annual celebration hosted by the Recording Academy and Clive Davis. Onlookers tried to spy the glam looks on the red carpet as they peered into the hotel's glass—we'll let you past the velvet rope and walk it with us as at this exclusive music industry event.

Dua Lipa & Ellie Goulding | Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images

This year's who's-who of music gala celebrated iconic industry veteran Clarence Avant, known as the Godfather Of Black Music, as the honoree of the evening. Like event host and fellow legend Davis, he helped launch the careers of many great artists, working with the likes of GRAMMY-winning greats Bill Withers, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis of The Time.

The video celebrating Avant had countless heroes such as Former President Barack Obama, Jones, Diddy and JAY-Z sharing how much they love Avant, the powerful impact he's made on their lives and music, and how he always knows the right thing to say. Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow introduced him with a fitting complement, and a huge one given the company they were in: "You're the ultimate music person." The Time properly brought the funk on stage to celebrate Avant with a performance of their '80s hits "The Bird" and "Jungle Love," dancing as if no time had passed.

Current GRAMMY nominee Travis Scott set the mood opening the evening's performances with "Goosebumps" and "Sicko Mode," while sisters and fellow nominees Chloe x Halle brought home a rousing cover of the late GRAMMY-winning Queen Of Soul Aretha Franklin's "Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves." Brandi Carlile, another current GRAMMY nominee, returned to the stage to join the duo, along with past nominee Valerie Simpson and Broadway star Keala Settle, ending the evening on quite the high note.

Chloe x Halle | Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

Other musical guests for the evening included current nominees Bebe Rexha, Florida Georgia Line and H.E.R., along with past nominees Jazmine Sullivan and Ledisi, plus GRAMMY winner Rob Thomas. Sullivan and Thomas offered a powerful duet, belting out Aretha and George Michael's "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)."

As the evening rolled on, Davis made sure to highlight all the countless legends in the room, as the crowd continuously burst into applause and often up on their feet to celebrate the likes of music greats Barbara Streisand, George Clinton and Dionne Warwick, along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Apple's Tim Cook and even former-L.A. Lakers star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Don't forget to tune in to the 2019 GRAMMYs live from Staples Center today. Start with the GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony at 12:30 p.m. PST/3:30 ET, then follow us to the red carpet at 2:00 p.m. PST/5:00 p.m. ET—both will be live streamed right here on right here on

Then the moment you've all been waiting for, the 61st GRAMMY Awards, hosted by 15-time GRAMMY winner Alicia Keys, will air live at 5:00 p.m. PST/8:00 p.m. ET / 7:00 p.m. CT on CBS.

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Record Of The Year GRAMMY Rewind



Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Adele: Record Of The Year GRAMMY Rewind

Time travel through GRAMMY history and revisit the impressive lineage of Record Of The Year winners

GRAMMYs/Jan 5, 2018 - 06:17 am

Numerically speaking, it's the first category on the GRAMMY Awards nominations list. Conversely, it is typically one of the final categories announced on the annual GRAMMY telecast. And its winners have spanned jazz, pop, rock, R&B, and Latin, among other genres.

What's the category? It's Record Of The Year, which is an award that goes to a track's artist, producer, engineer, mixer, and mastering engineer.

The Record Of The Year category's 59-year history offers a unique aural tour through the annals popular music — one that certainly has the makings for one powerfully diverse playlist.

Record Of The Year: Full List Of Winners And Nominees

There's Bobby Darin's swingin' "Mack The Knife" (1959), Henry Mancini's exquisite "Days Of Wine And Roses" (1963), Frank Sinatra's velvety "Strangers In The Night" (1966),  Simon And Garfunkel's inspired "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Roberta Flack's radiant "Killing Me Softly With His Song" (1973), and Captain & Tennille's breezy "Love Will Keep Us Together" (1975).

In the '80s, radio-friendly hits such as Toto's "Rosanna" (1982), Michael Jackson's "Beat It" (1983) and Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It" (1984) were among the winning recordings.

The '90s netted the likes of Eric Clapton's moving "Tears In Heaven" (1992), Whitney Houston's ubiquitous "I Will Always Love You" (1993) and Santana featuring Rob Thomas' infectious "Smooth" (1999).

The Record Of The Year lineage continued into the 2000s and beyond with unforgettable hits such as U2's "Beautiful Day" (2000), Green Day's "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams" (2005), Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" (2007), Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams & Nile Rodgers' "Get Lucky" (2013), and most recently, Adele's "Hello" (2016).

Which recording will become the 60th Record Of The Year GRAMMY winner? Tune in to the 60th GRAMMY Awards on Jan. 28 to find out.

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Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images


Concerts & Technology: The Future Is Now

From fan-friendly apps and RFID bracelets to virtual reality, augmented reality and holograms, technology is changing how we experience live concerts

GRAMMYs/Oct 26, 2017 - 08:24 pm

During Matchbox Twenty's A Brief History Of Everything tour this year, fans who couldn't physically get to a concert could still enjoy the show: The GRAMMY-nominated band made use of state-of-the-art 360-degree cameras to present a fully immersive, fan-controlled virtual reality experience of their Oct. 4 performance in Denver. Additionally, fans purchasing VIP tickets could employ cutting-edge technology to get even closer to the band by entering a virtual space as a hologram to sing alongside a hologram of frontman Rob Thomas.

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VR is just one example of the wide range of technologies — from apps and RFID bracelets to augmented reality and holographic projection — that is having a profound impact on the way audiences experience live music. To forward-thinking artists like Thomas, the future for concerts and technology is now.

"I think we're at the moment where this stuff is really here," says Thomas. "There's skepticism, but I also remember when people were skeptical about whether the internet would take off. When Matchbox Twenty started, we connected with fans through bumper stickers and cassette tapes. Twenty years later, we're in virtual reality, which is pretty amazing. But with every jump forward in technology, it's still about connecting with fans."

In the near future, it's likely virtual reality concerts will shift from newsworthy to commonplace, but technology is also opening up some brave new possibilities for live shows themselves.

Metal fans looking ahead at this winter's concert schedule may be surprised to learn that Ronnie James Dio, who died in 2010, will be back on the road for a series of European shows starting in November. Attendees at the shows will indeed be hearing the estimable voice of Dio, but what they will see onstage will be members of his longtime band fronted by a hologram.

"Ronnie was always an innovator in music so why not an innovator in technology?" asks Wendy Dio, the singer's longtime manager. "There are plenty of fans of Ronnie's that would love to see him back up on the stage, and there a lot of people that never had a chance to see him — this is the only way that's possible now. I'm hoping I have Ronnie's blessing because I think this is the wave of the future and I think as more people experience it, they'll accept it.”

Eyellusion is the Los Angeles-based hologram company recreating Dio for the stage, and the company has also teamed with Frank Zappa's estate to produce a new show centered on the iconoclastic artist. While the idea of bringing back deceased artists in virtual form has sparked debate, Eyellusion CEO Jeff Pezzuti points out that the technology can do much more.

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"Hologram technology might be the main part of a show, or just part of a live show, or a way of capturing something for posterity that's never been possible before," Pezzuti explains. "And the digital assets we create can move across platforms into all sorts of uses. We know a hologram is not the real thing, but it's close enough now to have you walk out of a show saying, 'Holy s***!' We want to create those 'holy s***' moments."

The Zappa concerts are planned for late 2018 and will include a variety of holographic elements sharing the stage with musicians who toured and recorded with Zappa.

"My father was a futurist and a visualist who wanted to do this kind of thing in his lifetime," says son Ahmet Zappa, a co-trustee of the Zappa estate and an executive with Eyellusion. "'Hologram' describes the way in which Frank can come back, but that's a limited way of thinking. Really, what we're doing is using technology to unleash a whole new way of witnessing the bizarre world of Frank Zappa. It won't be just watching a hologram play guitar. If the band's performing Frank's song "Stink-Foot," maybe it's sung by an 800-pound snakeskin platform boot. That's a different approach than what you'd expect for Dio, but it fits Frank."

Some might be tempted to write off such new technology as a novelty rather than a game-changer. But, according to Matchbox Twenty manager Nick Lippman, that depends on how the technology is used.

"It's only a gimmick if you don't know what you're doing with it," explains Lippman. "If you just step into the technology without a clear intention of what you're doing as an artist, it's not going to feel authentic. Artists shouldn't fit themselves to new technology — the technology has to actually serve the artist and the artist's fans."

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Many industry insiders are embracing new technology as a boon to the concert business. Kevin Chernett, executive vice president of global partnerships & content distribution at Live Nation, oversees live streaming and virtual reality projects for the entertainment company, which this summer live-streamed Coldplay's massive A Head Full Of Dreams concert in virtual reality.

"People are having their first VR experiences now and are surprised to find that the VR evokes the same emotions and thrills and energy that you'd feel when you're actually at a show — people stand up for the encore just like they would at the arena," says Chernett. "But we don't see any indication that people prefer their living room to the actual experience of a concert — all the technology actually helps to promote the live experience."

At those live experiences, concertgoers may not even be aware of the degree to which cutting-edge technology shapes what they're hearing and seeing.

"There have been quantum leaps forward in terms of the sound and lighting technology that's present in modern-day concerts compared to what it was a decade ago," says Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the concert trade publication Pollstar. "From the visual and audio perspective, we're producing a much higher-quality event all around and the technology is top notch — though it still takes talent onstage to make it all work."

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Roger Waters' current Us +Them tour features lighting controlled by infrared sensors, real-time video editing of giant screen images and stage technology so new it's considered to be a prototype. Waters collaborated closely with artistic director Sean Evans to create a high-tech spectacle that would be powerful but still serve to showcase the music.

"We didn't want the tail to wag the dog," says Evans. "'Oh, here's some cool technology, let's find a way to use it.' On a tech level, there are all these great crazy new toys, but on a creative level you still have to figure out how to use it all in a compelling way."

<blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned data-instgrm-version="7" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"><div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:33.33333333333333% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAABGdBTUEAALGPC/xhBQAAAAFzUkdCAK7OHOkAAAAMUExURczMzPf399fX1+bm5mzY9AMAAADiSURBVDjLvZXbEsMgCES5/P8/t9FuRVCRmU73JWlzosgSIIZURCjo/ad+EQJJB4Hv8BFt+IDpQoCx1wjOSBFhh2XssxEIYn3ulI/6MNReE07UIWJEv8UEOWDS88LY97kqyTliJKKtuYBbruAyVh5wOHiXmpi5we58Ek028czwyuQdLKPG1Bkb4NnM+VeAnfHqn1k4+GPT6uGQcvu2h2OVuIf/gWUFyy8OWEpdyZSa3aVCqpVoVvzZZ2VTnn2wU8qzVjDDetO90GSy9mVLqtgYSy231MxrY6I2gGqjrTY0L8fxCxfCBbhWrsYYAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;"></div></div> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"> <a href="" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_blank">CLEVELAND TOMORROW NIGHT! : @kate.izor</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A post shared by Roger Waters (@rogerwaters) on <time style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;" datetime="2017-09-21T02:13:51+00:00">Sep 20, 2017 at 7:13pm PDT</time></p></div></blockquote><script async defer src="//"></script>

One effect in Waters' show — a laser-light representation of the prism from the album cover of Pink Floyd's 1973 album, Dark Side Of The Moon — was designed with a very specific purpose in mind.

"That image has been all over Instagram," says Evans. "And that was the idea — we wanted to make something iconic that people were going to put all over social media. It's a weird way to think about a show, but that's the environment now."

Technology is also extending the concert experience and upgrading audience amenities.

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Apps such as Pavemint help concertgoers find parking before the show while others help order food that can be delivered during the show. RFID bracelets enable festival attendees to go cashless, and USB bracelets let fans leave a venue with a download of the show they just witnessed. Live Nation recently launched a Facebook Messenger bot that lets the social experience of the concert begin during the ticket-buying process.

"I don't look at this kind of technology as a demographic thing — it's a psychographic thing," says Lisa Licht, chief marketing officer at Live Nation. "It's for people who really love concerts and are spending so much time on social media. Concerts have always been both a personal and a social experience, and now we're finding ways to bring those experiences together."

Over the next few years, today's extraordinary technology is likely to become ordinary, as financial barriers to entry drop, ease-of-use increases, and artists, fans and the industry embrace new tech-friendly horizons.

Thomas is looking forward to some added benefits of the virtual concert world.

"Fans want to jump onstage with us in VR, but I'm more excited to be out in the crowd watching us play — that's a point of view I've never really had before. And if we get to the point where I could just play the live show and then send my hologram to the after-party to do the mingling, that would be awesome."

(Chuck Crisafulli is an L.A.-based journalist and author whose most recent works include Go To Hell: A Heated History Of The Underworld, Me And A Guy Named Elvis, Elvis: My Best Man, and Running With The Champ: My Forty-Year Friendship With Muhammad Ali.)

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