The Maritime Hall is a new venue for Todd shows, though it's obviously been around for some time. It was ridiculously easy to find, unlike many other places in San Francisco to an out-of-towner, as it was right off the Bay Bridge Embarcadero exit. A quick drive by on our arrival about 7 PM revealed some of our friends already in line outside. A drive around the block in search of a parking space found one only about a block away, at a meter, but unrestricted (and free) on Sundays.
The weather in San Francisco was pleasant, with a slight breeze coming off the bay. My sons, Matt (age 20) and Brad (age 17) were along for their first and second Todd experience, respectively. We approached the Maritime, greeted our friends and inquired about some nearby eateries. The problem with the Maritime is that it's in a bit of a business district, and there really wasn't anything to find on a Sunday evening. We came back hungry, and those of you with teenagers may understand how important food is to them. Returning at 7:30, we also discovered that the doors had already opened and our secured places in line were useless, we had lost that advantage.
However, the will call and guest window was now open, and we could procure our tickets, or so we thought. I happily provided the requested ID, only to be told I wasn't on the list. They had several lists, and a check turned up my name on none of them. I indicated that I was a Patronet Kontest winner, which provided me with tickets and after show passes. They indicated that we would have to wait for the band to return with their list. "When would that be?" "Just before show time about 10 o'clock." Yikes!
Resolved to wait outside until the list arrived, my wife and I were getting a little antsy as it had been a long drive from Sacramento, and no facilities for relief had readily presented themselves. An inquiry at the door allowed us, upon surrender of our IDs, to an escorted walk to the lower level men's room, fortunately unused (for my wife's sake).
Upon returning outside, we returned to the ticket window to see if any progress on locating the list had been made ... none! I decided to make a quick run to the car to pick up something, when we encountered friend Romo on the side of the building. Of course, his tickets had already secured him a location inside. We told him of our dilemma, and he indicated he would talk with Ed "Patronet" Vigdor inside to see what could be done. I made the trip to the car, was accosted by a local requesting a buck or two as he was "babysitting" the cars parked along the street. I indicated I would pay him after the show when I saw that the car was OK. Unfortunately, my inner sense of security was now in shambles, as I knew the car would likely not be in the same shape as I left it when I returned.
Upon return, Romo reported that Ed indicated that Mary Lou Arnold has "the list" and would be arriving within the half hour. Experiencing some relief in hearing that, we settled ourselves nearby the will call window, awaiting her arrival. Only a few minutes later, she was present and upon presenting the required ID, four tickets and after show passes were in-hand. Finally inside, we were directed up several flights of stairs and stopped by the Patronet flyer table to meet Ed. Ed pointed out the area on the flyer where it says "Favorite Website" and indicated to me that most of them were coming back with "The Todd Rundgren Connection." Quite a boost for my ego, and my spirits, as things were finally beginning to turn around.
Once again encountering the ever-present Romo, we were told that it was like being back in High School, as the place resembled nothing more than a big gymnasium. His description was not far off, but it wasn't entirely unpleasant. Fortunately, the crowd at this still early time (just after 8 PM) was light, and we were still able to secure our standing area at center stage, 5 feet back. And food was for sale inside. My starving children would survive another day!
The remaining time until the show began was filled with greetings and conversation with several of the faithful, and a chance to meet a few more. John Glossenger was right there, and a little later Jean Lannen showed up. Ed Newbegin, AKA "MR. Ed", whom I met for the first time at ToddFest/West '99, was also there and was speaking to another who indicated that he had been reading the reviews on the TR Connection. Ed introduced me and I'm beginning to feel like a True Star myself. More Ego Boosting!
Finally, it's 9 PM, and the opening act, "Keno," goes on. Think Green Day, and you pretty much sum up their look and sound. And loud. Fortunately, a set of wax earplugs saved my ears for Todd's set. They were warmly received by the crowd, however, and played a 40 minute set of originals along with a Cream cover.
Twenty minutes later, Todd is visible in the wings, right on time again, and the band comes out to wild applause. They open with ISP, and the energy is already at work. The sound is great, the equipment seems to be working, the band is right on. Todd's already sweating, as the lights are even brighter and hotter for the whole show is being video taped. An automated camera on a boom swings occasionally overhead for zoom shots, while an on-stage cameraman secures profile and audience shots.
Little banter from Todd, and as each new song begins, screams of delight are evoked from the crowd. The list goes on forever:
I Hate My Frickin' ISP, Play This Game, Love of the Common Man, Yer Fast (and I Like It), Black and White, Trapped, There Goes My Inspiration, #1 Lowest Common Denominator, Open My Eyes, Love In Action, Hit Me Like A Train, You've Got to Hide Your Love Away, Bang On The Ukelele, Temporary Sanity, Couldn't I Just Tell You, Mystified/Broke Down and Busted/Mystified, Buffalo Grass, One World, and the encore numbers The Ikon, Hammer in my Heart and Worldwide Epiphany. What's not to love?
I didn't see a single string break, but there was the inevitable equipment problem or two: a foot pedal preset failed to work, and at one point Todd's amp inexplicitly just shut down, but they were quickly resolved and the show continued to rock. After two or three songs, it was apparent to me that with the band's energy, and the hot lights, they couldn't go on too long, but the flow never ebbed, and Todd's voice stayed strong.
As many reviewers have already pointed out, Kasim and Trey back up Todd very well, and they are each given their chance to shine in the Ikon. Trey's got quite a flair with the sticks, and sounds great. Kasim's bass thundered in my chest and his and Trey's supporting vocals were also superb. And of course, Todd's solos just wailed.
Clocking in at just under two hours, the show was just amazing, and I could have gone home right then with no other cares in the world. But, an important part of the experience was still to come. As my prize as a runner-up in the TRTV 2K Kontest, I had after show passes for me and the family to go hang with Todd. Mary Lou escorted us into the hallowed backstage area where a number of other guests were also waiting for their audience. After waiting for a few minutes, as the band room was pretty tiny, Mary Lou let us in. Trey was just about ready to leave, so I quickly introduced myself. Early on in the tour planning timeframe, he had dropped me a line by e-mail and told me to be sure to say hello, so of course I did. He told me that he had picked up the lyrics for the songs from the TR Connection, so knew everything when they first got started. Another stroke for the unquenchable ego!
Finally, our Todd-op was present. We went over to see Todd, introduced the boys and my wife, Cece, reintroduced herself. I had brought along a couple of photos of the Rundgren Way streets signs in Folsom, California and Todd got a real kick over them. I also told him that every time I go to a Todd show, a number of friends tell me to "say hi to Todd for me," so I took this opportunity to get personalized autographs for 5 of them, plus one for each of us in the family. Fearing Todd getting writer's cramp, we sought no more.
My son Matt in is a band, and they had produced a 5 song demo CD. It had been his desire to get a copy to Todd, and so presented it. Since Todd had just provided us many autographs, which I told him might fetch us something at E-bay, I suggested that Matt also sign his CD. Todd suggested that maybe he could try selling it now on E-bay as well. He also lamented the fact that they wouldn't have the tour bus until they returned to the east coast, as they always like to have something to listen to while driving. But Matt's goal was accomplished: to get his music into the hands of a major record producer. His band mates will be so proud.
We made room for some others to come up and talk with Todd and made our way back to the other end of the room to introduce ourselves to Kasim. He was chatting with Larry Tagg, whom I had already talked to just after the show (his Civil War book sales are still going strong). I figure this was another cool photo-op, so I sandwiched myself between two of Todd's bass players and my son took the shot. Hope it turns out!
Well, our time for hanging was nearing an end, and snacking a bit on the fruit, meat and cheese platters, I offered my thanks to Mary Lou, asked her to greet Jesse for me, and we were on our way. After a final trip to the bowels of the Maritime to seek out the aforementioned men's room, we were out the door into the still-pleasant SF weather and onto our car. The much-feared vandalism had not occurred, and our "babysitter" was also nowhere to be seen. We hit the road, and at 12:45 AM on a Sunday night, traffic was not a problem. As we once again left the Bay Bridge and headed towards Sacramento, I inquired of the kids, "Who got the better show, us or the N'Sync fans?" "We did, dad," they replied.