Coushatta Casino is in the middle of a sun-parched delta plain, 28 miles north of I-10 and 3 hours from New Orleans, by the side of a two-lane road. It's the only thing for miles around, situated like a little oasis in the middle of a desert, inevitably reminding me of the lyrics to Utopia's "Caravan".
The performance venue is, quite literally, a steel warehouse building to which someone has added cute little concrete columns and lighting sconces. Utilitarian with minimalist facade. You want the obvious, you'll get the obvious. As one enters, a sign reminds the novice in quite flowery equestrian language that if you die inside, and a horse is involved in any way, it was your fault for being here in the first place. Good thing we aren't here to see "the New Equestrians".
Upon entry one's pulmonary system was immediately attacked by the odors and the atmospheric particulate matter associated with "rodeo". Asthmatics without their meds must quickly return to the car to retrieve inhalers. The arena floor was covered with folding chairs sporting slip-on, padded seatbacks. The sound during sound-check was remarkably clear, considering the lack of human reverberation absorption. As we were reminded on the TNC website, the guys had been here the previous day, burnishing the rough edges off a winter-season hiatus, so this sound-check was really just a formality.
Show-time comes along, and with no opening act, it's startling to immediately feel my hair brushed back and my chest collapse under the assault of "Hello Again". OMT (oh, my Todd) This is like the launch of a space shuttle at relatively nearby Cape Canaveral's Kennedy Space Center! I can't catch my breath! Exactly the same set-list we are familiar with, but the acceleration from a dead-stop in this lazy, southwestern Louisiana hamlet is almost crushing. Talk about culture shock!
Song after song, The New Cars made me feel as if I was in a Memorex ad, sitting a few feet from stereo speakers in an easy chair that's leaning backward at a 30 degree angle with my hair nearly pulling my scalp off my head. I looked to my left to see that my daughter and her husband, who have generously followed me to many TR shows in the past, were mesmerized. This was the hard stuff, and we were mainlining.
The place was only about half-full (2000+ tickets sold). Most of the floor seats were taken, but most of the arena seats were empty. Pictures were only allowed if the photog was wearing press credentials, but the guy next to me had a reasonable facsimile of a professional camera, and his pre- show Meet+Greet lanyard and tag put the guard at ease, so the first five songs were well-documented before someone on the venue's staff figured out the scam and shut him down.
The New Cars were, as usual the epitome of professionalism. There could be only one person in this venue, and they'd still be giving it their all. No snide remarks from the stage to an audience that IS in attendance, because of the audience that ISN'T there. For two hours, this little tin shack was transformed into a grand arena full of adoring patrons through the sheer will-power of Elliot, Greg, Todd, Prairie and Atom. For a first show of the tour, this was EXCELLENT!
Gotta go get another Bloody V-8 before I tackle the next review.