First, the crowd was great. Cleveland Todd fans don't usually take too well to his new music. Nary a yell for "The Wheel" this night though. Maybe it was the rapid-fire approach or the fact that Todd prepped everyone early on.
The "oldies" got things started and warmed the crowd up. Todd referred to the crowd being there to rock "because that's what Clevelanders do." So true. After "Black Maria", Todd commented that someone told him they were tired of hearing that song. "Every once in a while, you come back to pizza" he responded. He then sheepishly asked "may we continue to rock your world?" before launching into "Open My Eyes."
Now for the good stuff. Todd tried to get everyone to picture the HOB as an 80,000 "street" (he meant seat) stadium. He collected himself and explained that "I'm as nervous as you are" before launching into "Mad". A cool tune reminiscent of Buffalo Grass featuring a sweet dual guitar riff with Jesse. "Mercenary" is a dark, brooding song with a "More Than a Feeling" like lick. "How do you like me now?" Todd and the band asked over and over. "Gun" exudes a "Boogies" kind of feel with a Zeppelin-like guitar break. Todd declared that the next song comes with a money back guarantee. "Courage" was one of the more melodic pop songs of the night with a great guitar line and smooth backing vocals. As expected, no one cashed in on Todd's guarantee offer.
Todd explained that he never does anything easy. "We only do things rough" he said before starting "Weakness" which reminds you of a cross between "#1 LCD" and "Hawking". "It's fist pumpin' time, get 'em out and polish them up" Todd demanded. "I want to see three fists" he said. "Strike" repeatedly asked "are you ready to rumble?" with a pretty forward rock approach. "Pissin" trudges along like an elephant which a classic line about your dick being in the mayonnaise. "Today" starts with a cool keyboard loop and sounds closest to anything he did on "Liars". "Bardo" is "Bridge of Sighs" revisited, slow and brooding. "Cleveland does continue to rock" Todd confirmed but questioned Madonna's induction into the R&R HOF. Point taken. He then launched into "Mountaintop" which is a fun rocker with a thick bassline and a stadium-friendly "higher higher" chant. Again, kind of a "Boogies" feel to it. Todd said that we're entering the "dank part of the set" and almost pre-apologized for any mistakes on the "the most technically challenging of all of our numbers, but it's big on style points". He then launched into a frantic guitar lick to start "Panic" which reminds you of "Yer Fast". The set ended with "Manup" which pulls a little from the more rocking songs on The Individualist. "Listen to me my friends..." Todd preaches as they end the song on a fever pitch.
One encore with two songs. "Couldn't I Just Tell You" was an appropriate song for this tour but you could tell they need to practice it a little more. "Just One Victory" was a perfect ending song to an overall great show.
The band's performance was surprisingly tight. For only their 3rd show, there were very few flubs. Jesse and Prairie rocked as usual. Prairie was wearing this odd gladiator outfit. The newbies were competent but maybe a little boring. Matt did a nice job but was just kind of there. His keys were hardly noticeable and don't think I heard his guitar once. He added some nice background vocals that were a little buried in a muddy mix. Rachel was probably my biggest disappointment. Her bass playing was competent and backing vocals complimentary when you could hear them. Most of the night though, she just kind of stood there, sometimes with her back to the crowd. She had a beautiful smile that I think I saw twice. She needs to loosen up a little and have some fun. Todd's voice was in great shape, at least early on. His guitar playing was on but he didn't solo as much as you might expect on a tour like this. It didn't really matter though. The show still rocked.
So as explained in another review, be patient with this show. It's challenging because you want to sit back and enjoy the show but it's hard to do when you're hanging on every word. Good problem to have. If Todd was trying to tease us, it worked. Can't wait for "Arena."
Love In Action Walls Came Down Black Maria Open My eyes Lunatic Fringe I Saw The Light
Mad Afraid Mercenary Gun Courage Weakness Strike Pissin Today Bardo Mountaintop Panic Manup
Couldn't I just Tell You Just One Victory