Hard rock music is one of my very, very favorite forms of music and I've had a number of hard rock bands, so for me, the fact that Todd has decided to go hard rock on Arena is more than welcome! At Toddstock at the Tiki bar that night after he did the Arena debut, I said "so, Todd, the hard rock thing - what's up?-just in a mood for playing some hard rock or what?" his reply: "I'm in the mood to kick some ass!"
Meanwhile, back in my hometown L.A., upon arrival to the front of the Key Club in on the (yuck!) Sunset Strip in (blech!) Hollywood (hey, L.A. natives know, you know?? ;-) we figured if we're going to stand all night we might as well stand at the front of the stage and after waiting on line at will-call a good spell and watching tons of folks go in (overall, a lot of "younger" folks than I would've expected ;-) we were surprised to get inside to see only 4 people at front/center stage, so we took stage-right of them - being a musician myself, I should've realized that spot would put us smack-in-the-middle between Todd and Jesse, a guitar player's dream-come-true position, eh? And for a musician like me, it's fun to hear the off-mic comments, see all the notes played up-close and personal, and watch the interaction and faces at close distance during the show... Hell, look at the pics we posted, Todd practically sweated on us!
So in a way, I suppose this is a guitar player's/musician's review of the show, as well as loooontime Todd fan (first show - yep, Sunset Strip, Back to the Bars the night of the live recording and national radio broadcast).
The sound was very good even from the front of the stage where you don't get the house system mix, I could even remove my just-in-case earplugs 99.5% of the show with minimal after-show ringing...
Jesse: what a superb guitar player and he is very relaxed well-rehearsed on the tunes; as a fellow guitar player, nothing but kudos to him and it looked like his only "issue/frustration" was breaking a string toward the end of Just One Victory - other than that, he made a mistake or three that only a guitar player would notice and not even care about - this guy is really, really an excellent player and if you watch him close, you'll get a guitar lesson or seven! (Side note: I kidded Todd at the Tiki bar at Toddstock after his debut of Arena saying "hey Todd, seems like you took almost all the solos today, why're you holding Jesse back?" and I absolutely relish the sideways glare he gave me and muttered "...holding Jesse back!..." - I presume there's no hard feelings since after than he handed me a martini and refreshment).
Matt: a very unassuming and gracious man in person (lucky me, I was first to buy his new CD at Toddstock!) onstage, he held down his "base" quite well was rocking out in places and my impression is that he knows that Todd works with musicians who tend to be virtuosos or at least very accomplished on their instrument - so my impression is he realizes that he's got to do the job right, so he does. So the rocking out was not overstated since you're there to help with the show, not BE the show.
Rachael: like Matt, holds her position down - as a musician, it's easy for me to see that the material isn't 2nd nature for her yet and that she's concentrating hard on her parts and was relying on "cheat sheets" at her feet for the backup vocals and arrangement (but even Jesse had "cheat sheets" at his feet for some songs, and one was three pages and I said "wow" when he laid it out, and he said comically "there's a lot of words in this song, alright??" but anyway, at one point TR put his hands on her shoulders between songs and playfully said "loosen up!". To me it's plain that she probably would like more time to coordinate singing and playing the parts (been there, know the look on the face...) and she would do well to learn how to play the bass parts to Just One Victory while singing the complex "hold that line..." backups since only Jesse and Matt did (along with a few of us JOV addicts).
Praire: I've played with some seriously great drummers, and PP is so solid and a truly great drummer, I can see why Todd likes him as the backbone of his bands these days - and if you listen closely, he's actually... astounding. Take out the Liars DVD and listen closely to his parts on Just One Victory, if you listen very, very closely, you'll be astounded - and for comparison, listen to Willie do the same song on any other DVD and you'll see what I mean. I think PP is is a truly great drummer.
Todd: relaxed if not resigned, he seemed in the mood to get-it-done but have some fun. Random notes: Along the way, several times he said out loud off-mic that his hands were cramping up, and considering the non-stop barrage of 13 hard rock songs in a row following the opening 4 tunes - I can relate - the left hand muscles starts to rebel! Loved seeing him get slightly pissed about a stray mic cord in front of us that a stage hand should've gotten out of the way as he tossed it to the side, some random feedback in the house system ("make that go away and never come back again!") asking if Prairie could "at least get a candle??" of the lighting guys after the drums were completely dark for a song or two. Todd took the space in-between the monitors right in front of us a number of times and just tore it up playing his heart out on his solos, as you know he does. Too much fun!
Sheesh! That's enough out of me, email me if you want to know more! firstname.lastname@example.org.
David and Tracy
PS: Tracy wants me to add that overall this was a lot of fun and that you should go see Todd more than once and buy T-shirts and stuff, and that this is a fun, fun show! I agree!