The evening began with some logistical difficulties, as I had been trying to connect with fellow Bawizzers "Rockabilly" Bob McCarron (aka Schwing) and Michele to arrange to meet before the show. I finally reached a friend of theirs in Hamilton, who gave me a cell phone number to try once I got there.
This would be the first time my wife Lee would see Todd perform live, despite being married for almost 18 years (shes obviously not a TR fan, and barely knows any songs beyond the "hits" like "Hello, Its Me" and "Bang The Drum"). While not a Todd concert, the Beatles TR-ibute seemed perfect for her, she is a big Beatles fan.
We make the leisurely 80 km (50 miles for you imperialists) drive from Toronto to Hamilton (the Pittsburgh of Ontario but not as nice!) and arrive at Copps Coliseum (what else, a hockey arena) around 7pm. This is the shortest distance Ive travelled to see TR in almost a decade! On the way, we listen to Ambrosias "Life Beyond L.A." tape I found hidden in a box in the basement.
The place is dead, with nobody in sight around the arena. We even find free parking right next to the arena at a parking meter! Several attempts to connect with the aforementioned Bob/Michele via cell phone go unanswered, so we decide to take a walk around the arena and final a place to eat.
There are a couple of scalpers who accost us offering 4th row floors in the centre section at below cost. This is going to be an "intimate" show. I assume there was some reason why they bypassed several much better venues in the city of Toronto that would have attracted bigger crowds for a hockey arena in a "steeltown" 45 minutes away! Oh well.
After some food at "Walts Beanery" we head over to the arena and find our seats. Lee is sporting a rather large Nikon camera and plans to take many photos for me. No problem getting through security as apparently they are only concerned with video cameras and audio taping. I ask how many tickets were sold, and am told "only about 700". I carry a watercolour painting of Todd that Lee painted for my birthday that we are hoping to get signed.
Fellow Bawizzer (well, lurker!) Joan Harding drops by to say hello before the show (hey Joannie, why not post your thoughts?). The crowd is a real mix of fans from all of the performers, mostly aging baby boomers, several with kids in tow. I look around and spot the odd TR t-shirt.
The show starts with the fog machines rolling and some sort of warm up music that makes me think Im at a hair band show from the seventies. Theres two annoying video screens behind the band that keep flickering throughout the performance. The set list is identical to whats been posted before, so I wont bore you with a note by note account.
Some miscellaneous ramblings about the show:
- Yes, Todd is his usual clowning self, but a bit more subdued in the context of this all-star band. Todd acknowledges its been awhile since he was in Canada (over 6years, almost 8 since he last performed). Tries to make the usual Canadian references to hockey, Gordon Lightfoot, French Canadians, etc. Introduces Ann Wilson as "Ann WilSONE for you Quebecois in the audience" with a bad French accent. Uses the same joke later to introduce Alan Parsons. It was mildly funny the first time not funny at all the second time (in fact, my wife comments that it might be considered somewhat insulting).
- We really enjoy TR doing a "straight" version of Hello, Its Me. His voice is in fine form tonight, he seems in good spirits and the band is tight after almost a month of touring. The only sheet music in sight seems to be in front of Entwhistle.
- Ditto for "Bang The Drum". People are actually singing along, having a good time. The drums fall over in the middle of the song and a tech has to set them up again.
- The main battery on Lees camera dies during Bang, rendering it useless after only one roll of film. I knew I shoulda taken the old brownie hawkeye.
- Todd has to change pants during the second set because the multi-coloured ones that go with the red silk shirt have "popped a waist band". Todd tugs at them several times while playing to prevent them falling down.
- Todd seems very comfortable with the Beatles stuff, with killer versions of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", "Rain", and "Hide your Love Away" (solo acoustic), and "Ticket To Ride". Only one major mistake I noticed is when he flubs the lyrics in the first verse of "While My Guitar" singing something like "I look at you now and I see you need sweeping". He laughs it off and the audience is forgiving.
- Ann Wilson still has some of the best pipes in the business. The Heart stuff is nailed perfectly, and she really seems to be enjoying herself. In the intro to Dreamboat Annie, she says that Heart always considered itself to be "dual citizens" as they were living in Vancouver when their first record was made.
- While I vaguely remember Ambrosias work from the 70s, Ive forgot how much I enjoyed their stuff. David Pack is a talented performer, and takes the lead on all the Parsons stuff, the Ambrosia material, and shares lead with Todd on much of the Beatles stuff.
- Entwhistle is the same quiet, serious, creative bass player I remember from Who concerts. His hair may be gray, but his fingers fly across the strings at a fervid pace. The man can still play.
- Parsons does Blackbird solo acoustic and his weak voice does not do this tune justice. Despite the plea to "forgive me I dont normally do this, Im a record producer", ego must have gotten in the way. He should have played guitar and let David Pack sing it.
- Guitarist Godfrey Townsend plays impeccable lead on many songs. Talented player.
- How does this show make money? There are 8 players on stage???
Overall, the show is very enjoyable, and the audience sings along on cue to all the Beatles stuff. We try to get to TR for a signing of the painting afterward but security is having none of it. They try the usual "theyve already left the building". But its late, and we still have an hour drive home and work early in the morning, so we decide to head home without the signing, but happy none the less.