Tuesday, May 25, 2004
Very impressive show overall. I was floored by Prairie Prince the drummer and Jesse Gress the guitarist- amazing musicians! And Todd himself put on a hell of a show. The venue was general admission standing, and we were dead center, maybe 12 feet from Todd. Perfect position (although there did seem to be a lack of PA for this section so close to the stage- the PA stacks on the sides of the stage pointed straight out, leaving an uncovered area directly in front of the stage. As such, vocals were often lost in the mix, and Jesse's guitar was often hard to hear. Too bad they can't place a couple of smaller speakers directed at this area.)
However..., now for the caveats. I'll have to admit that for the first half of the show I developed the growing impression that Todd was tired/not feeling well. He repeatedly went backstage when he wasn't needed on stage, only to reappear at the last minute- maybe this was just a theatrical device, or maybe he had ongoing issues with the sound crew. And he said not one word to the audience in the first half (once again, maybe this was deliberate in light of the "seriousness" of the material.) After the long career and countless shows he's done over the many years, Todd, ever the showman, is still able to perform a pretty decent show even on autopilot. Also, I remember Todd saying in an interview that, in a tour there are good times, and not so good times to see a show. The first couple of weeks into a tour the band is still learning and perfecting the material and the timing, so things can be a little rough. The next 3-4 weeks are the sweet spot- the band is tight and confident, and having fun. Then by the 6-7th week it's starting to get into a rut, and by the 8-9th week the guys are starting to look forward to going home. Plus, the day of the week and the city make a difference in the band's energy level- a Tuesday show in Somewhere, America won't have the energy level of a weekend show in, say, San Fransico or Chicago- as a musician I know you have to pace yourself. Don't know if any of that was in play last night. Or maybe I'm reading too much into this. And it was disappointing that the show was short of a handful of tunes from the prevailing set list, "Love Science" and "World Wide Epiphany" among the missing.
By Todd's solo section, and then the band vamp ("Green Onions") things began to loosen up, and you could see the guys begin to have some fun. Kasim's "meltdown" during his "Born to Synthesize" solo helped to melt the ice as well. Also, I hadn't seen any other mention of this from previous reviews: Todd and Kasim had a cute routine where Todd "falls asleep" at the mic and Kasim works at trying to wake him up. Lotta fun. Todd's guitar playing was right-on and "Foamy" performed without incident. Kasim and Jesse seemed to be having fun, particularly later into the show. As I said before, Prarie Prince was awesome- I spent a good deal of the show watching him do his spot-on drum work.
I hope I don't sound like I was disappointed. Actually it was a tremendous show, and the new material was powerful performed live, absolutely mind-blowing. Todd worked the crowd like he always does, he sang his ass off, and the musicianship by all was high-quality. I can't wait for the DVD of this tour to come out. I'm really counting Todd to tape one of the shows for release- please don't let me down!