1. I Hate My Frickin' ISP 2. Couldn't I Just Tell You 3. Love Of The Common Man 4. Black And White 5. Trapped 6. Fix Your Gaze 7. There Goes My Inspiration 8. No. 1 Lowest Common Denominator 9. Love In Action 10. I Don't Want To Tie You Down ~ Todd solo ~ first performance this tour 11. Bang On The Ukelele Daily (a.k.a. "Bang The Drum All Day") ~ Todd solo 12. Yer Fast (And I Like It) 13. Secret Society 14. Hammer In My Heart 15. Buffalo Grass 16. One World
Encore #1: The Ikon Open My Eyes
Encore #2: Worldwide Epiphany
But of course, it's the directionally opposite soundflow that the place was built to facilitate, and just how magnificently the architecture accomplishes this purpose was manifest from the get-go, when local guitarist Mike Banks stepped onstage ("I'd like to thank the Power Trio for closing for me; I asked them to come along for the rest of the tour, but...") setting his sophisticated acoustic plink, whomp and strut into motion in a way that maximized the power-potential of his instrument in a half dozen perfectly integrated directions at once. His lyrics were straightforward entreaties to caring and humanity, nothing poetically complex or catchy: hearty, wholesome
After the 20 minute opener, we discovered at once why Todd calls this the Power Trio Tour. After a number of concept-oriented tours in recent years, Todd had obviously decided that the time had come to crank it up and f***ing rock (lest we somehow mistake his getting older for getting soft, maybe...) Power is also the show's real theme: furiously protesting the theft of Power by the powers-that-presume-to-be, both the silicon and more traditional money- and-gun-oil varieties ("I Hate My Frickin' ISP", "Black And White", "Trapped", "Bang On the Ukelele Daily"), asserting the reality of Power's ever-presence in the grip of an uncompromising universal love made manifest ("Love Of The Common Man", "Love In Action", "One World", "The Ikon", "Worldwide Epiphany"), and (most especially: this is, after all, Todd) Power's compelling complexity in the ways of lovers, raw and savage, yet transcendent ("Couldn't I Just Tell You", "Fix Your Gaze", "There Goes My Inspiration", "No. 1 Lowest Common Denominator", "I Don't Want To Tie You Down", "Yer Fast (And I Like It)", "Secret Society", "Hammer In My Heart", "Buffalo Grass", "Open My Eyes"), and all of it hammered musically home into the very pores of the skin in that pure manic kickass exultation of just plain being alive that tears the envelope of life's attending pain to shreds, or sometimes shards, even where a song is addressing exactly that pain. No "Nearly Human" style moping and sighing going on here, folks. (Not that moping and sighing is bad, per se; Hank Williams did wonders with it.)
The material chosen for the show was thus a mix of the subtly and blatantly political. I could be reading more of that into the show than was intended, due to my having spent the first part of the week in Philadelphia as a volunteer medic for the Republican Convention protests, but it could be that Todd had chosen his theme partly in light of the surprise resurgence of street activism that burst into the world's astonished view in Seattle last winter and looks to be growing still. This phenomenon seems to be the only real topical connection likely here, for though Todd did toss out one jibe in reference to George W early on in the show, partisan politics may inspire some of the outrage, but not the unmediated, vigorous determination and hope that most of Todd's more political songs put forth.
On the other hand, if those events had been a major factor in the selection of songs, we might have expected "Rape Of The Young", say, or "Sons [& Daughters] Of 1984" (though it's still really their older siblings who are leading the way at this point). "Just One Victory", though, was Todd's closing number for so many years that we can't well expect to see him drag that anthem out for years to come yet, as dearly as those of us who never saw it done live might wish it. Besides, we DID have that one victory when we brought the invasion of southeast Asia to an end -- yes, we really did -- and wound up burnt to a frazzle once it came home to us that it was going to take a lot more victories than just the one. I haven't checked the set lists from the tour to compare the political thrust of pre-RNC shows with this one, however, since the server for roadkill.com seems to be located on one of the moons of Jupiter, and it takes a while for pages to load. (The site is otherwise excellent.)
[At this writing, the day after the show, 340 of your sisters and brothers are being brutalized in the jails of Philadelphia (with bails set as high as $1,000,000 for misdemeanor charges), most of them young, principled, courageous, disciplined, intelligent and non-violent; I have met them and vouch for that. For more information, see http://www.thepartysover.org/ and http://www.phillyimc.org/ -- Unpaid Political Announcement]
During the midpoint break for Kasim and Trey, Todd played solo and sang the A Wizard/ A True Star classic "I Don't Want To Tie You Down". (Sez Todd: "This is the first time I've played this on the tour, so I'll probably mess it up..." He didn't, but at another point he got out of sequence with the spoken part of "No. 1 Lowest Common Denominator" and wound up losing three or four lines of it, according to the ever-knowledgeable Glen, who knows the thing by heart.) He then broke out his baritone uke for a solo rendition of "Bang The Drum All Day" in a spirit of mockery against the hit system, perhaps, or maybe just the sheer perverse fun of it. Todd has finally reached puberty, it seems, and has lost a bit of his upper vocal range. He compensates well by rewriting the melody to a different stratum in the harmonic structure of particularly high-pitched passages (most notably in the choruses of "Love In Action"), and pops out the occasional high note by cocking his head and bouncing it off the side of his throat in a ricochet Doppler effect or some such.
The only technical glitch of the evening involved a finicky connection in Kasim's mike cord, which needed an occasional high-tech adjustment from Todd's shoe. "I told the band the rest of the tour doesn't matter, as long as we're perfect in Harrisburg," Todd commented dryly. "Oh well..." A successful repair, of course, resulted in a static pop that made everyone jump, Todd not the least. "I can see the reviews now: A Cracking Good Show..."
Still, as great as the show was, the Whitaker Center is, in one important way, not really the proper venue for this kind of show. It's a theater. This, brethren and sistren, is not music that was ever intended to be sat down to. Nor is Sunday night the best spoke on the weekly wheel to be riding, with Monday morning staring reprovingly down your collar. I'd like to see the show at the Chameleon Club in Lancaster this coming Saturday night, where the sitters will be in the back at the tables, with a big floor reaching all the way up to the stage, where the rest of us will standing, rocking, maybe even dancing (remember that?), where there will be drinks but enough elbow room to feed the energy back to the band kinetically instead of verbally, and all Sunday to repair the happy damage. Yeah, that ought to be just fine.