Review by Grady Moates (Switch to

It seemed that more than 3/4 of the 1295 seats in the theatre were occupied when Todd, Kasim, Jesse, and Michael took the stage on this Saturday night fraught with the threat of an impending, heavy, wet snow storm. The Calvin Theatre is an older facility, but to my eye seems to have been kept in good shape. I had bought my tickets late, and so was about 23 rows back from the stage, but on show night my friends Kathy and Kristen, each of whom had one seat unused in the fifth row, allowed Skipi and I to move "up close and personal" with the proceedings.

Seated this close to the action, I was expecting that the sound would be a bit off, but was quite pleased with the clarity of the vocals, and the slight stereo effect caused by receiving some direct sound from the guitar amps on stage was a special treat when Todd and Jesse were swapping steaming guitar leads.

The set list was the same as earlier shows, with the addition of "Trapped", a great nugget of Utopia's repertoire, which was nestled snugly between "Hawking" and "World Wide Epiphany" in the encore set. More on that later.

Because the set list was so similar, I think I'll focus on Todd's between-song patter in this review, as I remember it with the aid of my trusty Blackberry and my slow-typing thumbs. For the first time in memory, all of his between-song comments were quite discernable, and his acerbic wit was certainly in attendance.

A couple of songs into the show, Todd referred to the evening's song selections and the wide range of time periods from which the songs originate as his "oeuvre", the definition of which is "A work of art -- The sum of the lifework of an artist, writer, or composer". He then suggested that a good title for his next album of material might be "Skidmarks on the Oeuvre". These remarks were received with great hilarity by the audience, and the tone was set for the evening.

After a blistering "Black Maria", Todd suggested that anyone who thought that the previous song had been written and released contemporaneously with the next song would be sadly mistaken, and launched into "Soul Brother" from "Liars".

Next, he discussed the concept of "getting the lead out", chastised China for not being able to control the lead content in their products, and then promised that he would be completely candid about "exactly how much lead" was in the show this night, and followed with "Mammon" and "Fascist Christ", two of his 'heaviest' songs.

Todd then thanked the audience, complementing us on our restraint, because no one had yelled out the "H" title so far (referring, of course, to his top-5 smash hit Hello, It's Me), and then offered us, as a reward, "this little holiday kugel" of "I Saw the Light".

After "Black and White", Todd apologized, "'scuse me while I take a steroid right now, I'm tryin' to bulk up!" and popped a pill of some kind, chasing it with spring water. Moving along, he talked about "songs we picked up hitch-hiking", songs for which "there's no one to get them in your ear anymore, so now you have no choice but to take it in the ear!", a great introduction for "Lunatic Fringe".

Chewing a hangnail, he got the room really laughing when he said, while spitting out a piece of thumbnail, "Let me just P-THWWW fix something here", and cranked up "# 1 Lowest Common Denominator" followed by "Drive".

Next, the political satire portion of the show went by so fast I couldn't keep up with my notes, so here are just some fragments:

Here we are in the "all-important state of Massachusetts, the state that gave us Mitt Romney."

"I don't think we'll ever be saying 'President Mitt'."

"Neo-conservatism was invented for mentally ill persons" followed by several examples of behavior and opinion, daring the audience to find a difference between mental illness and neo-conservatism. Just hilarious stuff, but thought-provoking, as well!

At the end of Tiny Demons, when Todd accidentally reversed the last two lines of lyrics, he said, "One of them messes up the lyrics!"

Then, Todd described once again how, as a young share-cropper down in Philadelphia, Mississippi, "Me and Muddy. . . Wolf. . . Junior. . . and Buddy" were sittin' on the front porch and invented the blues one afternoon while sharing some crops. "Mystified/Broke Down and Busted" and "The Walls Came Down" followed.

Prefacing the performance of "S. L. U. T.", Todd commented that they mean to offend all genders, and there are so many these days!"

It seemed that everyone in the theatre joined in on the choruses of "One World", and the show spun down to a dizzying climax.

It was evident that quite a few audience members had been "reviewing the reviews" at TRConnection, because there were quite a few shouts of "Trapped" as the guys returned to the stage after their brief respite from the lights. Todd gave one of his most impassioned performances ever of "Hawking", and received a wonderful audience response. Then, Kasim was funny to watch as he was looking right at Todd, with this big smile and questioning eyes, waiting for a yay or a nay on the idea of doing "Trapped". Fortunately for all of us, "Yay" won out, and Kasim gave us an exuberant vocal performance on this mainstay from Utopia's "Oops, Wrong Planet" album.

All too soon, the show concluded with Todd's "World-Wide Epiphany", with voices raised all over the auditorium.

For me, it's onward to Toad's Place next Tuesday night, and the cusp of the Holiday Hiatus. If the second flight of this amazing TR tour comes your way in January, DO NOT MISS IT!

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12/15/2007 - Calvin Theater - N Hampton, MA

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