TR, Friday Night at the State theater of NJ

Review by Tony Cappiello (Switch to

Chalk up another Todd show to another guy who stopping counting after twenty-some-odd, dating back to my first at the long gone Shaboo, in Wilamantic, CT, back in ‘78. This was my first time seeing him in NJ though. Their State Theater is a magnificently renovated vaudeville house (capacity 1800). Since it was designed and built in 1921, the acoustic quality is questionable, compared to some more modern venues. Frankly, I would have rather been at the Sunday night show at the Bardavon Opera House in Poughkeepsie, NY Sunday night. I’ve never been there either, but I would guess the sound would be better - also would’ve been half the drive distance for me. Too bad that show sold out before I got tickets L

Anyway, I arrived there after the show started (Always Late!), and unfortunately missed most of Ethel’s opening act. Morning-of-show purchase of my tickets lead to seats in the mid-back reaches of the balcony. But they weren’t too bad. Not a bad seat in the House (the only Cliché tonight). I never was much of a Joe Jackson fan, but I am more so now. Before tonight, I didn’t realize he was a piano man. That grandest of keyboards was the first instrument to strike a deeper appreciation of music in me as a youth, and you know what they say about first loves. For me the highlights of his act were “Stepping Out” and “Different for Girls”. Also included were a bunch from his album “Laughter & Lust”, which I’m not familiar with, and a few “new ones”. He even threw in a John Lennon tribute. The set ended with the popular “Is She Really Going Out with Him?”, inspiring audience participation. It all sounded good, a solid performance. After a 10-15 minute break, our Hero took the stage.

Play List Summary

Acoustic Set –  LotCM – Always a favorite
I Don’t Want to Tie You Down – Melancholy rarely sounds so good
Lysistrata – Appropriate today, given the blood being spilt on foreign sands
Tiny Demons – Captivating!
Piano Set -       Song of the Viking (attempt, 2X)
   – Disappointing Bailout after two flubs. Shame.
Compassion – Sweet!
Free & Male & 21 – Indulge us.
Hello It’s Me – He bantered about, then coalesced into the ever popular classic.
Ukulele set -     BtDAD – We continue to have fun with this jingle.
Electric set -     Black & White
  – Usually one of my favorites, but it seemed off tonight.
Afterlife – Beautiful! One of the few newer numbers performed tonight
The Wheel – Just as mystical as ever.
Encore -           Other Me (JJ/Ethel)
Pretending to Care (TR/Ethel)
While My Guitar Gently Weeps (TR/JJ/Ethel)
Black Maria – Kick Ass!
It was a great show, though not perfect. After reading some of the previous reviews of shows earlier in the tour, attesting to near flawless performances, maybe my expectations were too high. Most of the night, his voice was strong, but he pushed the vocal strains beyond limit a few times. Being a devoted TR fanatic, I cut him slack on this – but it is not so readily overlooked by the masses. Also, it was a disappointment to have him mess up, twice, and then abort Viking! I love that ditty. It is so fun. What gives? Guess he’ll have to try again some other night and get me to buy the DVD. That leads me to mention the somewhat distracting camera booms swirling about. While I’m bitching, Black & White, usually one of my favorites, seemed off tonight. I’m not sure why. Guitar out of tune? (Could some one please tune it for him between sets?) Whatever. The biggest disappointment was something that I didn’t even realize until reading another review of this show. Apparently we were gypped out of “Hawking”, “Beloved Infidel” and “YGtHYLA” because the lame theater management cut it 15 minutes short. (Oh, but they could drag out the intermission to milk their bar receipts.) I read he played those songs at other shows and if true, that the front office pulled the plug, that really sucks. Maybe I should have gone to see the Foxwoods show Saturday instead. After missing out on tickets for Poughkeesie, it had been a toss up between New Brunswick and Ledyard, with me being about halfway between. I opted for the former, thinking it might be a more quaint venue. I’ve yet to visit Foxwoods. He seems to be making it a regular stop these days. Maybe next year.

Anyway, TR was fairly engaging tonight. Upon appearing with the state instrument of Hawaii, the question du jour was: can anyone name the state instrument of NJ? – Todd remarks “Who said skin flute?” lol. There wasn’t much new material, “Afterlife” being the notable exception. “Afterlife”, followed by “The Wheel” were the awesome twin peaks of the solo performance for me. Todd is still Godd. The finale was great too. I had seen “Weeps” the night before on Connan, so I sort of knew what to expect: Todd wailing his green guitar, JJ pounding the ivories, trading back and forth of the vocals, and Ethel blazing away like whirling dervishes on speed. It was an experience to behold. This partially made up for last year during the Liars tour, when I got to the Paramount theater (Tarrytown, NY) late (always), when “Weeps” was half over. Man that green guitar not only weeps, it bawls!

All in all I really enjoyed the show. Our hero is still the Wizard, a True Star.

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04/29/2005 - NB State Theatre - New Brunswick, NJ

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