Todd at Chicago's Vic Theatre 4/11/03

Review by Ken Davis (Switch to

The set list was pretty similar and the sport coat was familiar- black shirt tonight- but that uncanny Rundgren vibe was back in Chicago! The crowd was clearly there to hear Todd and he was in no mood to disappoint!
"Love of the Common Man"
"I Don't Want To Tie You Down" (TR shook his head in
amusement when he smacked the mike stand with the neck
of his black Takamine)
A quick recap of the tour to date in anatomical terms, cast Indy as the "pyloria" and Chicago as the "prime rib", and wound up with his gracious acceptance of not one not two but three leis from audience members! The o'erpowering scent led him to nearly "swoon" as he put it. So saying, he set the purple and green neckware aside until the "Tiki" portion of the set.

"Cliche" followed and then, saying that the following song that been stuck in his head, Todd improvised a punchy cover of the Tom Cochran/Red Rider classic rock FM standby "Lunatic Fringe".

The audience of faithful hardly knew what to think, when in a pithy diatribe, Todd further informed us: "Those of you who came here tonight expecting some kind of political statement, expecting me to expound and vent, verily to empty my craw, shall NOT feast upon that spectacle!"

And only after the applause and hooting died down, with perfect deadpan timing, did he add: "There is just this one thing though."

"Do NOT let anyone inhibit you from your right as an American to express your opinion! Or what the f*** are we doing trying to bring democracy to any other country?" The rendition of "Beloved Infidel" that followed was literally inspired and deserved the ovation it got.

Moving to the piano for a flawless "It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference," the crowd and performer seemed to be in sync with each feeding off the other's almost building emotional response.

"Viking Song," "Compassion" and "Free, Male & 21" built to the evening's crescendo- a passionately delivered take of "Hello It's Me".

I had an evening wide epiphany of my own during the following damnable ukelele interlude of "Bang The Drum". I was cringing at the tired "Hawaiian war chant rap" when I suddenly realized that, for Todd, the current "solo" tour must be at least a little like that old Bill Murray "lounge singer" sketch from SNL. Todd gets to tell a few jokes, do a little shtick, and still work in one of his most recognizable tunes in a jokey format and setting that renders it at least semi-palatable for him to perform. (Who knows?)

"Black and White" rocked out again tonight. And the brace of Beatles covers "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" and "I've Just Seen A Face" were manic feelgood singalongs.

"Born To Synthesize" was another showstopper, as it was in Indy, wending it's folky, swinging meander through the colored geometry to the Jetsons and finally Todd's feigned snooze. (Doug S. tells me this bit dates back to the Tiki tour but I don't remember the significance frankly.)

Anyhoo "the runt" awoke for a soulfully restrained bossa nova set:

"I Saw The Light"
"Can We Still Be Friends"
And a particularly powerful take on "I Want You"
(ju-ust like eye-yi want yo-ou! Whe-oo-hooo...)   
"One World" ended the show on an anthemic and triumphant note- and as I glanced around the spotlit room I could see every set of lips moving to the words in unison (an experience I'd argue is somewhat unique to Todd fans and Todd shows)

The initial encore of "Hawking" and "A Dream Goes On Forever" were both performed as flawlessly as I've ever heard him do them. The second encore of "The Wheel" into "What's Going On" was a religious experience.

This was an enlightening show in that I saw exactly how the mechanism works with a performer like Todd who depends on the response of his audience to inspire him enough to give them an even stronger performance.

The set lists in Indy and Chicago were almost the identical, but the vibe at the Vic was electric- and electrifying. Friday night was the most inspired- and inpirational- show I've seen Todd do quite in a while.

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4/11/2003 - Vic Theater - Chicago, IL

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