SEATTLE Perhaps inspired by his tour of the Jimi Hendrix Gallery at the Experience Music Project the night before, Matchbox Twenty singer Rob Thomas orchestrated a captivating stadium rock show Saturday that was particularly impressive for a band more familiar with intimate theaters.
The Orlando, Fla., rockers headlined a concert that also featured superb performances by No Doubt, Beck and the Eurythmics, as part of the second day of the interactive museum's opening ceremonies.
"I think this could be fun," Thomas whispered to guitarist Adam Gaynor seconds after the band was introduced by original "Blues Brother" Dan Aykroyd.
Later during the set, which began with new tunes such as "Bent" and ventured into past hits such as "3 a.m." (RealAudio excerpt), Thomas thanked the enthusiastic audience and the host of the weekend, EMP co-founder Paul Allen.
"This guy knows how to throw a f---ing party," Thomas said.
Thomas and other members of Matchbox Twenty toured EMP with their wives and girlfriends Friday night. Other musicians, such as Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, Patti Smith and No Doubt's Gwen Stefani, also have been spotted inside the EMP, which remained packed until closing time Saturday.
The entire Seattle Center, a cluster of concert venues and carnival rides in the shadow of the city's Space Needle, was jammed with visitors enjoying the comfortable temperatures and free music Saturday.
Inside Memorial Stadium, where the ticketed concert ranged from $35 to $150 a person, chamber-pop crooner Rufus Wainwright was the unannounced opening performer. Wainwright used the gig to play several new songs from an upcoming album due in the fall.
Allen appeared onstage to introduce friends Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart, who as the Eurythmics played a 40-minute greatest-hits set. Dressed in matching, sparkling sequin suits, the duo played behind recorded tracks of hits such as "Missionary Man" and "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" (RealAudio excerpt).
Lennox, who also toured the museum the day before, walked offstage mid-song. The singer was upset about a loud helicopter that continued to circle above the arena. The crowd yelled obscenities at the helicopter and chanted "go away" for several minutes.
When it finally left, Lennox returned. "I just want you to get the best sound quality possible," she said. Lennox made up for the lapse by adding several choruses to "Here Comes the Rain Again."
Beck, with an 11-piece funk ensemble, opened with his breakthrough hit, "Loser" (RealAudio excerpt), but he kept his 40-minute set mostly to new material.
Dancing like "Saturday Night Fever"-era John Travolta at a modern-day rave, Beck entertained the crowd with his swinging hips and sexy lyrics, such as, "Baby, I just got hydraulics installed and we're gonna go up and down all night long," from "Debra" (RealAudio excerpt).
Beck closed with an elaborate jam take on Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue," which had his younger fans puzzled.
"I liked Beck the most," Aaron Addis, 10, of Seattle, said. "The 'two turntables and a microphone' song was my favorite," he added, referring to Beck's 1996 hit "Where It's At."
Addis came to the concert with his mom, Dawn Steele, following a six-hour outing inside the EMP. "We loved it," she said. "I tried to play the keyboard but it was too hard," Addis added.
Steele was pleasantly surprised by the Eurythmics' set, though No Doubt was her clear favorite. "Gwen was in rare form; I've never seen her like that," she said.
Stefani, sporting pink hair and matching pants, and her crew including drummer Adrian Young, wearing only pink fur underwear; bassist Tony Kanal, sporting a "Karate Kid" look complete with headband; and guitarist Tom Dumont, wearing all black and dark shades, entered the stage playing "Ex-girlfriend," a radio hit last fall.
No Doubt hurried through a set featuring songs from their recently released The Return of Saturn, along with older, ska-tinged hits, such as "Spiderwebs" and the crowd favorite "Just a Girl" (RealAudio excerpt). Thanks to Stefani's flirty additions "You lookin' at me?" she asked the guys in the crowd the song went over with both sexes.
"It was great," Steve Shepherd, 35, of Seattle, said. "No Doubt came to play. I don't know if I have a favorite part; they just sounded really good, the whole band."
Earlier Saturday, multigenre musical explorer Taj Mahal, who narrates much of the museum's Jimi Hendrix collection, held a 100-person workshop inside the EMP's Learning Labs.
Although it was dubbed a history lesson on African-American music, Taj Mahal let music do most of the instructing as he played a hollow Gibson guitar while singing blues, soul and world music.
Taj Mahal offered some advice to the parents in the crowd: "You don't need to be worried about your kids listening to rap music," he said. "My parents were worried about what I was listening to 30 years ago too, and there's no need."
A few hours later, Taj Mahal played a free show outside the EMP that also featured Bo Diddley and Big Jay McNeely, who walked around the audience while playing his saxophone.
Also on Saturday, about 300 teens gathered at the Flag Pavilion for an electronic music show that featured the Ace of Base-like sounds of Supreme Beings of Leisure and the trip-hop beats of Gus Gus.
Several concerts were scheduled for Sunday as well. Bands from the Pacific Northwest, such as Screaming Trees, Queensrÿche, Built to Spill and Subset (rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot with former members of the Presidents of the United States of America), play Memorial Stadium, funk legend James Brown along with the JBs and Maceo Parker play Key Arena and '60s rockers Paul Revere and the Raiders and the Ventures headline a free show at the Mural Amphitheater.