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Rob Thomas from ‘Matchbox Twenty’ spoke with Dave Paulson about how The Onion likes to joke about him.
Video: Michael Schwab/The Tennessean

It’s hard to believe 20 years have passed since Matchbox Twenty became one of the last big rock bands of the 1990s, ruling radio and MTV with Push3 AM and Real World.

It’s even harder to believe if you see the band on their current 20th anniversary tour, as 45-year-old frontman Rob Thomas looks and sounds pretty much just like he did back then.

But not everything has aged that well — such as the band’s earliest music videos, packed with ’90s angst and questionable fashion choices. Thomas re-watched them for a new video they’ll be sharing online soon, and he says the experience was “pretty cringeworthy, all around.”

“I just can’t believe some of the clothes we wore, quite honestly,” Thomas says. “I’m like, ‘Was that nail polish and eyeliner? What the hell was happening in the ’90s?’”

“I have that one weird, faraway look in my eye, with my mouth open, like I see something in the distance, and I’m not quite sure what it is. That’s my look for every video.”

But the band’s current co-headlining tour with Counting Crows is about celebrating their history — warts, angst and all.

Last year, founding member Kyle Cook briefly left the band, but he’s now back on board. After “airing our grievances,” Thomas says, “I don’t think (the band has) ever been closer, or had more fun than we’re having right now, out on the road.”

It’s also Thomas’ second straight summer on tour with Counting Crows. Last year, he toured solo with the band, and by end of the run, he and Crows frontman Adam Duritz began plotting a way to do it again.

“It just feels good to be out with adult, professional people with no drama,” Thomas says. “They know exactly what they’re doing, and there’s none of that pissy attitude, rock star s—.”

Since this is a Matchbox Twenty tour, fans shouldn’t count on hearing any of Thomas’ solo hits — including Smooth, the collaboration with Carlos Santana that topped the charts for three months in 1999. Smooth became so inescapable, Thomas is fine with the song taking a summer vacation.

“I’ve got a weird love/hate relationship with Smooth at this point. I love it, and at the same time, I’m fine if I never hear it again,” Thomas says with a laugh. “I have a different relationship with it than most people, because I love to play it, and that’s always fun. … I remember when we did it, it was me and Carlos. We wrote it, and I would see really hot Latin girls in New York City dancing to it and sweating. Then, like, five years later, I see Teri Garr on a commercial for (radio station) LiteFM with Smooth playing behind her. I call up Carlos, and I’m like, ‘Dude, what the f— happened to that song?’ ”

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