Key Club July 2

Review by Jason Dean (Switch to

A good time to see Todd is when he's just finished a new album and is playing with a full band, because he's well-rehearsed and cares about showing off the new songs like a proud parent. I had not heard any of Arena, so it was a treat to hear the record from beginning to end with no preconceived notions. As pointed out, there were musical nods ranging from AC/DC to Robin Trower, but the sound was distinctive Todd.

The first half of the set was a good warmup. I for one will never tire of hearing Black Maria live because it's always played with conviction and with a smoking band. I've never heard a subpar version (which, unfortunately, I can't say the same for Love of the Common Man). Even I Saw the Light sounded invigorated.

I look forward to getting the new record when it's available to revisit some high points from the evening. Liars was good, but my feeling is this will be better.

The sound was excellent, in quality and volume, from my perspective at the foot of the stage. It helped being out of the range of the suspended speakers, which no doubt muddied the sound. The band was great. Jesse and Todd sharing the stage never gets old.

Rachel Haden rocked so hard she deserves her own paragraph. People knocking on her stage personality should stand down. She's a demure, non-scenery-chewing presence - a persona that came off as more calculated than nervous as some have suggested. Her playing was solid (playing bass with a pick is sexy) and gave the proceedings some youthful credibility. Very nice.

What is it with Lunatic Fringe? Did Todd lose some bet with Tom Cochrane of Red Rider that stipulates he must play that song in every set?

Sixty years old and refusing to calm down and act his age. Truly inspiring.

My only criticism of a great night: I've never seen an opening band at a Todd show that was worthwhile. I was hoping for more from L.A's Morgensterns. If, as they said during their set, they don't play acoustic much, why do it tonight? They sounded like flacid The Band. One of those "scruffy, calculated nonchalance" retro scenester outfits, complete with clunky, dumpy, wheezing harmonica solos. Even Todd made a couple back-handed comments the limpness of their set.

Fortunately, it was all uphill from there.

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7/02/2008 - Key Club - Los Angeles, CA

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