I was so wrong. The show was fabulous!
Todd opened with a recitation of the lyrics from the early Beatles tune, "I Wanna Be Your Man" which I took to be a respectful acknowledgement of George Harrison's currently precarious health. When Todd launched into "Hammer in Your Heart" with a clear strong voice I fell completely in love with his music all over again. The two hour set reflected some forethought on Todd's part with respect to the material played. This resulted in a wonderfully homogeneous set that incorporated the usual acoustic suspects and some uncommon ones as well. I couldn't recall the last time I heard him perform "Mated" and I loved it. The addition of Jesse Gress in Tiki Green was integral to the overall somewhat sophisticated (for Todd anyway) mood the show conveyed. It allowed Todd to focus on his voice and relax and enjoy himself even though he as working very hard. It is obvious Jesse loves and respects Todd as much as we do.Todd was a commanding figure in casual but fashionable New York black clothes which were loose in all the right places but tight in the righter places! He exuded an air of confidence and control which was reflected in a well paced mix of casual banter between songs, augmented with ample good humored dose of self-deprecation. Put simply, he was among friends and he knew it.
It is clear to me that a summer on the road performing a varied repertoire of songs has resulted in Todd's voice achieving increased clarity, range and power. As they say, practice makes perfect. He captured (almost) all the high notes with moderate effort. Todd's piano playing was hampered only by that unbeatable nemesis, age, which affected his vision and made the keyboard difficult to see. This resulted in a chagrined Todd uttering a frustrated but endearing F word. I quickly surveyed the audience and can practically guarantee Todd that he is not alone in facing the eyesight predicament, myself included!
An energetic "One World" was the closest Todd got to rocking during this acoustic evening, along with a spirited psuedo-impromptu "Lady Madonna". I found the audience rather sedate for New York, although I think that the seated dinner atmosphere contributed to that. It is a dicey thing; I think the shows are more fun when everyone is standing, but I also think Todd gives a better performance when we are seated and there is some physical distance between him and the audience. It was nice that there were a minimum of boorish drunks present, which allowed Todd to concentrate fully on making wonderful music and not waste energy getting mad.
The renditions of "Love is the Answer" and "I saw the Light" resulted in a moment of clarity during which I realized that although I personally love Lounge Music, I do not think it is a style that optimally exhibits Todd's level of unique creativity. There is too much of a sameness, a lack of dynamic range to it. Maybe I just need another martini... Also I was surprised that he performed House Carpenter, which has its origins in an old English folk song. A popular version was recorded by the English folk group Pentangle. They were played on 'progressive' FM radio in the late 60's. It can be found on the classic 'Basket of Light' album.
This show was so powerful emotionally that I would like to see it issued as a live disc. The sound was pretty clean, and it would be nice to have a more recent live show to listen to. As I was packing later that night I reflected on the current state of pop music in general and realized once again how lucky we are to admire an artist who is constantly creative and who has chosen the path less traveled to make himself and his work available and accessible to us. Although I did not travel to New York exclusively to hear Todd perform, if I had, it would have been worth every cent of the expense. Great job, Todd! Like buffalo grass, you wrapped yourself around my heart.