I had never been to the TREC, and don’t expect to go back a second time. I was expecting something along the lines of the theater within the Mohegan Sun casino in CT, which is pretty good, if pricey. After walking a good mile or more navigating through the casino with the limitless one-armed bandits, when we finally arrived at the “events center” it felt like it – like I was going to a trade show or a sales meeting, not a rock concert. Portable padded folding chairs and rollout side bench seating. I was beginning to wonder if Todd would present a PowerPoint as an opening act. I wish!
There was no opening act, and TNC came out to cheers from an appreciative crowd. The one good decision I made was opting for the cheaper tickets… it did not matter, as we were able to move up to the tenth row center easily. This is not a building designed with a concert in mind. It’s about 100 feet high, 800 wide, and 1200 long, with a flat ceiling. I’ve been in military sheds more inviting that this. The sound was predictably muddy most of the night, but listenable.
It was a short set, maybe 75 minutes, with none of the newer TNC songs. Kasim was definitely missed, especially his vocals. He fits this group perfectly. Atom was ok in the bass role, but appeared to be a phantom singer. Elliot Easton was masterful as usual. His leads were spot-on – what else is new – and his tone cut through the mud clearly. Since I’d seen the group before it was no surprise that these versions of Cars tunes have more muscle. But what really stood out to me was how two of their songs really are a cut above, beyond just a hit song or a fun memory.
The first is “Drive,” which I still think was better with Kasim singing it, but was absolutely arresting in its drama and poignant melody. It stopped whatever chatter the audience was partaking in and got their full attention. Whatever they played up to that point almost didn’t matter, as the set reached a higher level… the sound cleared up, and everything seemed brighter.
The second was “Just What I Needed,” which should be no great surprise. And no, it’s not because the CC commercial drove it further into the public consciousness. The song just builds perfectly and pays off in the chorus big time. It’s so much more than just a classic new wave pop trinket… it’s a true gem.
Todd was in a good mood, and introduced the band with a goofy shtick as if they were all terrorists. Atom was the mysterious guy with no history. Greg was the mastermind – ok, not really, Todd joked, but if we needed a mastermind, he could do the job.
It appeared we might get some payback in the encores, as they did do “Open My Eyes.” But Todd – stop me if you’ve heard this before – broke an E string in the intro, which had him rolling the eyes behind shades and coping as best he could. Playing that song without an E string is like playing “Bang the Drum” without, well, a drum. But like that song, in capable hands it turns out it’s possible after all.
Another bit of anticipation started days before when we learned the Tubes were also playing at the TREC, in what I thought was a bar within the complex. Turns out it was just a pit amidst the clanging gambling machines. So right after “Good Times Roll” we rolled in a hurry to try to catch them, wondering if maybe Prairie or Todd might sit in for an encore. We got there in a hurry, but just in time to hear Fee yell “Thank you – good night!”
While it was a fun night, it was also bittersweet and disappointing. What I had hoped would be something special turned out to be a JAG – Just Another Gig.