This is long, so get yourself settled in with a pot of coffee, or hit the delete button now.
I Hate My Frickin' ISP Couldn't I Just Tell You Love Of The Common Man #1 Lowest Common Denominator Love In Action Trapped There Goes My Inspiration Play This Game Black & White Cliche You've Got To Hide Your Love Away Bang On The Ukulele Daily Secret Society The Ikon Open My Eyes Mystified/Broke Down & Busted Yer Fast (And I Like It) Buffalo Grass One World
Encore 1: Hammer In My Heart
Encore 2: Worldwide Epiphany
In this area, the casino hosts nightly entertainment for no charge. That's right-- a Todd show for free! The catch is that, with such limited seating, you've gotta show up excruciatingly early. To make it even worse, the casino reserves some of the prime seating for their "high roller" crowd, so the limited seating is even more limited. The show started at 8:00pm; I got in line at 5:00pm, and there was already a crowd ahead of me. Considering it was almost a 3-hour drive from my home in New Hampshire to the casino, it was a big investment of time I almost blew it off, but it *was* Todd after all... and it was free...
I had planned on going with 3 friends, but they all cancelled out on me. And we couldn't get a babysitter, so my wife couldn't come either. So I was all by my lonesome.
I hung out in line reading a copy of "Entertainment Weekly" & minding my own business (being the unsociable guy I am). Eventually I struck up a conversation with a couple guys in front of me, discussing various Todd & Utopia tours, albums, live recordings & such. Turns out that one of the guys was Charles Stagnitta, a BeyondAwizzer who also bought some live Todd CD-R's from me. It was nice to meet him in person!
Since I was all by my lonesome, he invited me to sit with his friends (all of whom were quite nice). When we finally made it into the room, there were apparently only 20 seats left--- almost didn't make it in!
We were seated on the far left, virtually parallel to Trey. We were close, so we got a good view, but the sound was not ideal since we were basically behind the PA and even the amps. Todd's guitar was a little hard to hear since he was on the other side of the stage. Certainly no problem hearing the drums, though!
To be fair, though, the sound was still very good. The place is pretty well designed acoustically, the stage is nice, and the equipment is good. One of the better sounding Todd shows I've been to in years, even if we didn't have ideal seats.
The show started off with a solid "ISP", and then ripped into "Couldn't I Just Tell You". Out came the Rickenbacker for "Love Of The Common Man". This was the first surprise of the night, for 2 reasons: long a staple of Todd's acoustic sets as well as the 4-piece-or-larger band gigs, I was unsure how this would translate to the Power Trio format. But it lost nothing. Also, Todd's vocals have tended to falter on this song during may of his recent acoustic-only versions (including the Tiki tour), but he sailed thru this version beautifully.
Now is probably as good a place as any to hail Kasim. He is such a great vocalist, and his voice meshes so well with Todd's. That's a major contributor as to why this version was so good. When they hit the harmonies on "LOTCM", I knew I was in for a great show.
The Rick didn't last long... off it went (I think it was the only tune he used it on) and on went "Foamy" for "#1 Lowest Common Denominator". This song suffered a bit (for us, anyway) because the guitar was hard to hear (and it should be smokin' for this tune!). I'm not sure it was only us who was affected, because Todd himself seemed to be acting like there was something wrong with the amp, the sound, or something. This trouble haunted the show for the remainder of the first half, though it didn't stop the band from tearing up the stage or really detract seriously from our enjoyment of it.
"Love In Action" was next, with a very extended pause during the "can't stop..." break. Then came "Trapped", a real thrill to not only hear Kasim's lead vocal (they should give him more than 1 tune to sing lead on!) but to hear the song transformed into a keyboard-less 3-piece. Who would've thought this song would cut it without the key synth parts?!
"There Goes My Inspiration" was played by the whole trio, not acoustically as we've seen in the last few tours. Again, Kasim & Todd blend like the voice of God.
A rockin' "Play This Game" and "Black & White" followed, then the mini acoustic set. The old favorite "Cliche" was played nicely... it's a perennial member of the set list, but I never get tired of hearing this song; I still say it stands as one of the most beautiful songs of the 20th century (and I mean it!).
It was time for Todd to throw a couple bones to the audience, thus the crowd-pleasing version of "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" and the ukulele-touting "Bang On The Drum All Day" (as heard on "One Long Year").
Back to the electrics for the funky "Secret Society" (excellent Todd vocals), and then the edited version of "The Ikon" (a la "Redux '92"). All 3 rip it up, but again, special notice goes to Kasim, who pulls out a truly tasty bass solo (not something I usually look forward to, but Kas knows how to make it fun & listenable). Kasim is truly underrated as a bassist.
Now we really take a trip down memory lane as they rip into a killer version of "Open My Eyes". The song just smokes! Unfortunately, just as it's about to slip into total bliss, Todd's guitar signal dies in the last few measures of the song, which pulled the song back to earth... but didn't stop it from being one of the real high points of the evening for me.
Next came "Mystified/Broke Down & Busted", as it was performed on the "I" tour. I must admit, I dig the songs but it felt a little old-hat to me (just my opinion, though). By now though, Todd's guitar tone is fixed & finally at the volume it should be, and he's really biting into the guitar parts.
2 new tunes follow: "Yer Fast" and "Buffalo Grass". "Yer Fast" is as good live as you'd think (as intense & hard as anything Utopia did in their punky phase). "Buffalo Grass" surprised me though; I thought it was the weakest of the new material on "One Long Year", but live it really comes across well. Harder, more energy, more guitar. Nice! I was pleasantly surprised.
The set ends with "One World", a crowd favorite that brings 'em to their feet, dancing to the stage (screw the high rollers in the front who sit like stones & probably have no idea who Todd is anyway.)
The band returns to the stage, and Todd picks up the black Strat for "Hammer In My Heart". (I'm pretty sure it was the only time he used that guitar tonight.) As you might expect, the song translates well to the Power Trio format.
Off the stage they go, to return 1 more time for a blistering "Worldwide Epiphany". Again, it's another song I didn't think would work so well as a trio (even with some prerecorded tracks), but this version absolutely knocks 'em dead. Who would've thought this song from "No World Order"-- an oft-maligned Todd disc-- would become the new TR anthem? But I truly think it's replaced "Just One Victory" and "Love Is The Answer" as the Todd rally/battle-cry of the new millenium. This song is an absolute emotional powerhouse live.
Todd signs some autographs & the band leaves the stage for the final time. A truly great show.
What made them choose "Trapped"? I'm sure they wanted to give Kas the chance to sing a tune, but this one was an odd choice for a trio. Did Kas pick it? Is it one of their favorite Utopia songs?
They played 3 songs from POV -- more than any other Utopia album. This is interesting because POV was one of Utopia's lesser-known LP's, and my impression was that they didn't have much fun making it.. the band was on its last legs at that point. Yet they must feel pretty good about the material to draw so heavily from that record. Did they even notice that they drew more from that album?
And what about "Open My Eyes"? Was this any kind of subconscious attempt from Todd to reminisce about an earlier time when the music biz was all exciting & new? I wouldn't hold my breath-- Todd's a pretty unsentimental guy, but it is interesting for him to revisit this song (the last time I'm aware that he performed the whole tune was back in the very early Utopia days, a la the "Nimbus Thitherwood" bootleg LP), especially considering the frustrations he's been thru in the last few years.
And Todd did not disappoint. His playing was hot, tasteful and dead-on. The vocals were above par, too. Add to that Kas & Trey playing their very best, and you've got a tour that compares to any of Todd's best.
What I needed was to have my faith in Todd renewed. And I got what I needed.
I hope this back-to-the-roots tour has re-energized him. I hope he returns to Hawaii with a lot of newly-inspired song ideas and a renewed interest in making music. And we'll all be better off for it.