If you're reading this, you're a fan. SO, (a) you know the set list by heart, (b) you have your own dream set list that you hear in your head, or (c) you'll see it in another review for this show. I'd prefer to record my impressions of the evening, if you don't mind. OK, I'll drop in a few song titles if I must. But only if absolutely necessary.
It's been something like 30 years since the first time I saw Todd live for my very first concert ever. (Todd laid claim to my concert cherry. Hmm,I kinda like that' there's a certain Zen quality to it.) That show was in a club, too, and it was just Himself, a piano, a guitar and a tape machine. (He was wearing a diaper -- go figure -- because his "costume trunk" didn't show up at the gig.) So the show at Toad's Place was a sanctified moment for me because it was truly the man and his music, just like in them olden days. Let's not harp on the nostalgic, although hearing stuff that goes back to the beginning of his career was indeed a groovy thing. (Back to Runt, anyway -- no true Nazz stuff, unless you count "Hello, It's Me." You'll have to catch AWDAR to hear "Open My Eyes," which was worth all those hours of waiting for a table at Mohegan Sun.) And it was very cool for him to do "The Viking Song"(!). (Can I help it if I'm a sucker for his Gilbert and Sullivan jones?)
He told some great stories! I've always thought that Todd is the Johnny Carson of rock + roll.
He was wearing a suit coat when he first came on (why in God's name are you hiding those biceps?!), and he explained (apologized?) that he'd just gotten his hair cut earlier in the day (in some trendy NYC salon where the guys look like refugees), and it was all over the place, so he wanted to wear the jacket for awhile to work up a sweat and tame the frizz. (Todd, honey, I think there were plenty of women in the audience who would have been more than willing to help you work up a sweat.)
At one point, he introduced his "protest" song by mentioning his draft-age children. That was a very moving admission. Todd doesn't generally present himself as a parent, and, truth be told, it's not the first thing I think about him, but to hear a nugget that was so colored with emotion and anger really made the performer a regular guy, more male/dad than magician than I ever knew him to be.
Todd gave the impression of being very engaged with his audience. There have been nights when the technical screw-ups were so pitiful that he'd just rolled his eyes and went through with it for the paying customers, but at the Toad's show, he seemed pretty well pleased with the sound system (how often does THAT happen?) and just carried on playing and loving it. The only technical glitches I noticed -- and believe me, I'm scraping for these -- were that, when he first came on, he had to adjust his monitor speakers (he likes them angled, not flush -- this is crucial), and he had to forward through a track on his playback machine (rhymes with wayback machine) because he'd "already done that one."
I absolutely love it that this guy can screw up his own lyrics and cop to it! It happened a couple of times -- don't ask me when, my eyes were dazzled by Todd. But he laughed it off and carried on, and the crowd was digging him for that. How do you keep a 35-year career in your head, especially after all those chemicals? (Hair dye, hair dye -- shame on you!)
The Twist set is always good. And I liked the folk moments -- something completely unexpected, compared to Todd's usual guitarapalooza. Don't get me wrong -- I've always thought he's one hell of an MVP, and his guitar work is nothing less than superlative. As a long-time fan, it's invigorating to see a different side of his work. Besides, it's got to be an energizing change of pace for him -- he does Guitars-R-Us for the rest of the tour, cut the guy some slack.
Still, my heart belongs to the man and his piano, and I think that's where he's done his best work. He finds a way to make the instrument humorous and emotional and percussive, all at once, all in a row. Nobody else does that. Todd will be playing piano in my little corner of heaven, and that segment of the show was just a preview of what it'll be like when I die. Bliss and clouds. (I must admit to longing to hear his tribute to Laura Nyro, rest her soul. Where is that damn Runt album?)
Yeah-yeah-yeah, he threw in a couple of Beatles songs, just to let you hear what you're missing with AWDAR. At least he goes with a couple of lesser-known songs -- "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" is particularly memorable, very sweet and sad. Nothing against the Beatles, you understand, but I was there to see Todd. He's a good sport, though (even with the rectal discomfort -- see the opening paragraph), and it gave the audience a chance to sing along and share that feel-good vibe.
There were other moments for the group sing thing, notably during "The Wheel" (such a beautiful thing) and "One World" (yeah, yeah). And we didn't even need lyric sheets, clever us. There's something particularly cleansing about howling your lungs out and pumping your fists in the air. Makes you feel like a frat boy again, doesn't it?
Props to the audience, who, for the most part, were SO there to see Todd that there was no room for misbehavior or rudeness. (Those few of you who behaved like jack-offs, you know who you are. Hsss.) Thank you, everybody down front, for staying seated so the standees at the back and sides could enjoy the show. And thanks to the woman who loaned Todd her keys so he had something to do with his hands during the Twist set -- you are a genius and should be on his tour permanently!
There wasn't a wasted moment in the two hours Todd played. He came, he saw, he fondled us in the palm of his hand. And we were digging it. Even his water breaks were meaningful and well received -- "This'll have to hold me" as he gulped a quick one before moving from guitar to piano. When was the last time that you heard somebody get applause for taking a drink of water?
It's not gonna happen anywhere else, baby. A Todd-fest is a beautiful thing.
Thank you, Todd. Hugs and kisses. Amen.