As you enter the Taj Mahal you are bombarded by the constant chiming of the slots and the thick air of smoke. Picking up your tickets at will call lands an unexpected surprise: the seats really are assigned, and there's no need for standing in line, standing to watch, tipping to get better seats. As you wait for the show to begin the announcer says "Personal upgrading of your seats is not allowed. Please see the usher if you would like to have your seat adjusted." That explains the empty seats way up front that remain empty throughout the show. This crowd is too timid and/or too poor to fill them.
Finally the musicians start to walk out. A few calls of "Todd!!!" are heard as OH dons the faithful blue guitar. The band begins to play and Ringo walks out to start singing IT DON'T COME EASY OH's guitar has a pleasant phase shifting sound, very similar to the original recording. OH and JB add nice harmonies to the tune but the distinctive sound of their voices is also noticeable. After finishing, Ringo asks if there's any little girls in the audience and winds up dolling out little heart candies to them for V Day. The band then goes into ACT NATURALLY The song has such a goofy cowboy rhythm that OH takes to flopping his hair left and right and making goofy faces for a time, then thinks twice of it as he glances over towards the ringed one. Ringo then takes to the drums and turns it over to Gary Brooker who breaks into a very bluesy piano riff that turns into
WHISKEY TRAIN OH gets to open up on a blues guitar solo that gradually picks up speed, but seems carefully constructed. Some in the audience at this point (including my wife) do not recognize Gary as being MISTER Procol Harum. Maybe it's the white hair and the 60ish look (his age, not his clothes!). Then Gary introduces Todd as the guy from MAUI (close, but ...) who breaks into
I SAW THE LIGHT As noted before, OH has that Bosa Nova swing in his voice and the band is straight 4/4. It sounds a little forced, and OH's guitar solo doesn't seem quite right, even though the notes are the ones we know and love. OH's fans yell his name and "Haina Hou" (one more time in Hawaiian). Todd's turn to introduce Jack Bruce and we hear the familiar guitar riff of
SUNSHINE OF YOUR LOVE The crowd loves the familiar sound of Jack's voice, and Todd sings the Eric parts. It's like the Faithful album: OH sounds very similar to EC's guitar riffs note for note and is very careful in playing them. There are parts where his solo slightly lags behind the beat as he picks through it, and the he rushes it to the end. Still, a very close and inspirational rendition from all. The only thing missing is the tumultuous drumming that Ginger Baker provided to the tune. (BTW, is that guitar a replica of Eric's/ Todd's as related in DM's 2/13 review? At the time, I thought it was the real thing. I know it was/is in the SF Hard Rock Cafe, but I figured it was just a phone call away for OH to "borrow back"???) The reins are on in the percussion section ... Simon Kirke can only be SO good, if you know what I mean. Jack's turn to turn the stage over, this time to Simon Kirke, who does a credible job at singing SHOOTING STAR as he plays the drums well. The dynamics of the song are touching as this true story of burnt out rock stardom is told. OH's solo screams the pain of lost stardom and youth ... hmmm ... Next, time for Ringo to do BOYS which he says is the first song he sang on vinyl (what's that Mommy?). OH and Jack Bruce add great harmony, but only Ringo is allowed to do the Trademarked Beatle sound "WWOOOOHHH!!! Gary Brooker and the others are harmonizing, but they don't stand out like the former throughout the night. This one rocks. Next up Ringo does
LOVE ME DO which sounds way better than the two recorded versions that he has recently made, simply because of the strong and faithful harmonies. Ringo then remarks about his latest CD, Vertical Man, which contains this tune (his favorite) and the fact that no one bought his CD (sound painfully familiar, OH fans?). He then goes into a rocking version of
I WANNA BE YOUR MAN Todd still sounds like the record, and then rocks it further. Exit stage right for Ringo as Gary breaks into
CONQUISTADOR The recognition of Gary begins to sink in! Great version as OH meticulously picks the accompanying guitar riff that is mimicked by the other instruments. OH has to look as he plays this riff, it's a bit tricky and of course, new to him! Great song and then Gary (apparently) puts an extended foreign language curse (I think it was supposed to be an introduction) on OH for what should be his highlight, the song that sends them running to the record stores, the one that has them dancing the night away, none other than
HAMMER IN MY HEART Only thing is, it's started way too fast, so fast that the funk is gone and our hero is frantically trying to do his beloved hand motions along with the song, but they're too fast, then he plays the solo and apparently breaks a string, no sound is coming out so he rips two strings out (3rd and 4th?) and flips them away and continues the solo with just the two high strings (not sounding good) when finally the guitar tech brings him a brown strat? and he tries to switch, but the bass riff is starting the familiar riff and instead of just letting them run the riff for a few bars as he changes his guitar, he sings it without the guitar riff while trying to put on the guitar, which is sorta ok, but WE KNOW HE'S LOSING IT!!! and he puts the guitar on, and sings, but now the volume is too low and he comes to the second solo and it's too quiet in the middle so he's twisting the dials and he turns his guitar OFF for a painful 3 seconds or so, but he comes up out of it as if this is normal (see 2/13!!!) and he's in control, to wind up with somebody blowing the ending ...YIKES!!! Some curse!! Now Ringo comes back with arguably the low point of the show with a song written for him entitled
I'M THE GREATEST which wasn't so great. At this point the author was wishing he had ROMO's foresight to have pencil and pad in hand (novice!) and the rest is based on mutual consensus with my wife. This leads into
THE NO-NO SONG which is distinguished by a loud snorting sound in the second verse ; -) Those silly boys! Time to bring it back to the boys and back to the traps for Ringo and Simon does a great copy of Paul Rogers singing
ALL RIGHT NOW OH nails the solo right down to the blazing triplets at the end (BTW, Simon was in Free and Bad Co.). Time for the next song but Todd forgets his cue then rushes to the mike smiling and plays a chord that leads to a spine chilling version of Cream's
I FEEL FREE the guitar riffs are right on, hauntingly beautiful and precise. Todd sings the responsive chorus to Jack Bruce's lead and the crowd experiences a moment of toe-tingling ecstasy. The beginning of the next song had OH thrashing the entry chord on his acoustic and Ringo saying "what was that?" Our mischievous hero then plays the chord slowly and sweetly, smiling as Ringo leads us into a faithful version of
YELLOW SUBMARINE and some great English accents (including OH) for the responsive chorus! OH's Gilbert and Sullivan penchant is now paying off! Now when Ringo goes to introduce Todd, OH can't help but comment on the orange vest with the black shirt that RS is wearing, saying something about a Halloween costume (remember that biting the hand story, Todd?) but Ringo speaks over him, telling him to tell them the name of the song and it all sounds like gibberish, and the GB Packers comment is haltingly mentioned and lost in the moment. What song you say? none other than
BANG THE DRUM Ringo truly beams like a proud parent as Todd plays the song flawlessly. The crowd is impressed and you can feel the heat of the lightbulbs going on in their brains (Oh, HE sings that...where have I heard that...). Finally, OH's dancing, singing, having a blast and MAYBE winning over a few converts on his own!!! The crowd roars, and many give OH a standing ovation. Not to be outdone, OH plays the strains of a song that many recognize immediately:
WHITE ROOM The crowd screams louder as Jack begins to sing. OH hits most of the notes in the song, but takes a little time getting just the right ankle twitch for the wah-wah to produce those legendary tones. Todd jams an extended solo on the end and then Jack solos on the bass and finally at the end of the song TR and JB stand together jamming away like it could have been the Cream farewell tour. The Crowd Literally Jumps to their feet. Then when you thought it wouldn't get any better, Gary introduces a song that he says is basically just a love story. When Tim plays the beginning strains of
A WHITER SHADE OF PALE on the Hammond B-3 many audience members get chicken skin, as their lost youth and forgotten memories of past loves overwhelms them like the incoming tide. My wife remarks Gary sounds exactly the same as he did in the 60s (as does Jack Bruce). Todd plays acoustic 12-string on this one. Undaunted, Ringo says he has his own love song and the music kicks in with
PHOTOGRAPH It's a likeable melody that has a sax solo in it with Tim sitting on the edge of the stage as he starts out, only to be brought to his feet as he aims for THE note (is it a C?). Last up (we think) is
BACK OFF BOOGALOO which is notable inasmuch as it is a very forgettable tune and Ringo has been quoted as confusing it with Mack the Knife. The song does rock a bit, but Todd's not much of a slide guitar player either ... yet! and it leaves one feeling that he HAS to come back They do and encore with
WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS which ends with Ringo walking off while the band finishes the final strains. The band (sans Ringo) lines up for the final bow and leaves the stage. No extra friends this night ...
This show reminds me of wine. With age it will just get better and better. Todd's guitar playing will become flawless and his confidence will allow him to float through the solos with ease. I'd guess that they had 2 weeks or less to get ready for this show. For those of you out there that have the chance to see this, one month will make this the best performance from Todd on guitar in a long time. Don't miss it!!!