I have conflicting emotions in trying to describe my past two evenings with OH...one wonderful, the other scary and sad for lack of a better description.
Tuesday night...Annapolis, Md....my hometown for the past six years and the last place I ever expected to see Todd perform. Luckily the local brew pub (The Rams Head Tavern) has opened a wonderful "supper club" to showcase top national acts. The place only seats 230 (which explains the pricey $50 ticket for TR) but the ambiance, the great food and the intimacy between audience and performer is worth it. I presume the price also keeps out the uninitiated riff raff...but, more on that later. I read most of the reviews of the first few shows and was apprehensive about what to expect. Having seen almost 60 shows since my first (in Allentown in 1973) I've seen the best and the off nights too. This time I managed to convince my wife to go. She "survived" her first show at the Trocacadero in Philly in '94 when we almost passed out from the heat, then we saw the tiki bar tour in '98. It didn't hurt that since I'm the biggest Todd fan in Annapolis- I got the two best seats in the house up front and three feet from the mike stand. My wife loved the show and so did I. Todd came out in great spirits...got through Viking without a hitch- that was a first! Like most of us- I've had it with Todd' Bosa Nova stage. It was fun...sort of like the "Deface the Music" concept was fun...but it really is getting old- and it doesn't work without the stage theatrics. Anyway, I didn't keep track of the set list- mostly the same as the previous shows. It was simply two fine hours of intimate music (Jesse's playing was great!!).
Then....back to my original haunts for show #2 the next night in Allentown. I've seen Todd there about six or seven times and this time they had him booked into the local rock bar "Crockodile Rock"....where someone forgot to tell the locals that this was primarily an acoustic show. Allentown is the heavy metal capital of the western world and it seemed many of those confused fans showed up on the wrong night expecting something else. I knew we were in trouble when a car pulled up to the curb a half hour before show time and six wasted biker types literally fell out of the car and stumbled into club. The tickets for this show were only $13....different crowd to say the least. As Todd took the stage they were pumping Foreigner's "Hot blooded" on the sound system and as Todd took the stage he joked that the club had a strange way of getting the audience in the mood for what he was about to play. Todd actually seemed in decent spirits when he came out, but after a few numbers you could tell he was slowly getting agitated. Finally, after the fourth song he gestured to the bar where he told the crowd that all he could hear was some obnoxious guy in his ear and asked the crowd to "police" the guy or he'd do something about it. I was fairly close to the stage and none of us had heard anything or knew what he was talking about. It was apparent though that there was a loud and obnoxious buzz of chatter from the back of the room. Todd got totally unnerved. After "Viking" went totally out of control (you could tell he had lost his concentration)....he made a joke that "this is just great...now I have to play a ballad". About halfway through "Compassion" he slammed his hands down on the keyboard and said "this is the toughest gig I've ever played". At that, he seemed to have a complete meltdown- got up and stormed off the stage. So there we are...20 minutes into the show, and we're all looking at each other wondering if this is it. After 5 minutes of the crowd chanting for Todd....a few a--holes who were obviously drunk were yelling for Todd to lighten up and get back out there- Jesse came out on stage and begged the crowd to show the man some respect....very nervously trying to explain that it was an acoustic show that the crowd didn't need to be totally silent but it would be nice if they paid attention.. This is Jesse's hometown and I can imagine how he felt...he said his parents were in the crowd! I was disgusted, embarrased and basicly wishing I hadn't been there to see this. Todd finally came back out after 10 minutes and tried to pull it together. He asked anyone who wanted to get drunk to take it to another part of the club. The man gave it his best effort, but this night was already lost. While he kept joking for the soundman to turn up the volume to drown out the talking it didn't help. He finished the show but you could tell he wanted to get out of there. I don't know if there was an encore- they didn't deserve one and I left, expecting there would be none.
This was the worst of all possible shows...audience apathy and rudeness. I suppose, as the saying goes...you pay your money and you are entitled to do whatever...but I never thought I'd live to see something like this. I'll be interested if this causes any lingering effects on Todd on Friday in Philly. If you're not one of his adoring fans (and we all know who we are at this point)...some folks are just not prepared for some of his haphazard levels of performance, stops and starts etc. It was only a matter of time until something like this happenned. How sad.