Decked out in religious garb of various sorts, the band is quickly into it's stride, each of them on a miniature enclosed backlit plinth. (I can't help recalling Spinal Tap's pods!) Last out, to a cheer from the diehards at the front is Todd, swathed in an ankle length coat and boots that Noddy Holder would have been proud of. Liar is first, followed by Buffalo Grass & Mammon. The sound is excellent, and happily, Todd's voice seems undamaged by the years.
After Fascist Christ, TR says hello, chats with the crowd and announces, to laughter, that he's 'agog' with the splendour of the venue. There are no rock-star-to-audience clichÈs: he still has the same jokey human touch that we came to love years ago. We learn that the S/Hall dressing room has internet - a prelude to I hate my ISP. The first hour is mostly numbers from the Liars album, with the notable exception of While My Guitar Gently Weeps, which has one of the few Todd guitar solos of the evening.
The band departs and we get 2 solo pieces, Beloved Infidel (maybe the best vocal of the evening, crystal pure) and Lunatic Fringe. Then the band return, entering singly, catwalk style, in Southern Dude outfits as Todd departs. Green Onions sets the tone for what is a mainly soul-themed second half of the show. Jesse on guitar has a fluid touch.
Todd returns, in an outrageous floppy yellow suit, to give us Soul Brother and Flaw. Politics rears it's ugly head with the TR view of the Iraq war. "We were like two drunk guys in a bar saying, Hey, let's go and beat up that Iraqi guy". More laughter. Sweet and Past follow, with TR giving it 100% as he sings to all corners, pacing up and down the length of the stage. Folk begin to abandon their seats and cluster to the stagefront. What's this cool jazz thing we get next? Bloody hell! I do believe it's Born to Synthesize but not as we know it, Jim. This becomes a vehicle for the whole band to take solos, with outstanding work from Kasim in particular. Is that a smidgeon of The 7 Rays he chucks in for good measure? I think so, and so does someone else judging by a cheer to my right.
Todd now introduces the band, as The Jetsons (Prairie is George) and we learn that we were lucky to get a bass solo: Bristol didn't on the Monday, but "this Hall, you know, we have to caress it like a woman". We're approaching the home straight now, and even the odd doubters in the crowd have been won over. Another soul number ( sorry, forgot which) and For Want Of A Nail brings the set to a close. The crowd are all on their feet cheering for more as the band return with Hello it's Me, which also gets a lounge-rhythmic overhaul. Personally, I think that's like putting a moustache on the Mona Lisa.
Off again, and back, as the shouts go up "Open my Eyes", "Heavy Metal Kids" but most, thank goodness for Just One Victory, and that's what we get, with half the place at least singing along. At the last moment, Todd grabs his Strat and gives us the final chorus with those long ringing notes that are his trademark. Then they're gone and the lights go up. Great show, 2+ hrs, but there's still a lot of great old tunes in the TR archive that I'd like to have heard.
A good excuse to come back with them, Mr. R, but next time please don't leave it 10 years, and on behalf of my European brethren, do give them more than a single festival gig to share.