Todd @ the GAMH -- July 6, 2008

Review by Ed in SF (Switch to

I've seen Todd play at least 20 times in the past (from solo gigs at the Old Waldorf to The New Cars at the Mountain Winery, and most everything in between), and I was looking forward to this show. Todd usually has something different to offer each time he comes around, and I was eager to see what he had in store, with a new album coming out. The GAMH show on Sunday night was the full-tilt, guitar-slinging, confident, leather-pants rocker version of Todd's that I haven't seen since his Utopia days. From reading the previous gigs reviews, I had prepared myself for a show of fresh (unknown) material, which was exactly what he delivered. I enjoy it when Todd (or any artist) challenges the audience, and with Todd & his band playing about a dozen new songs consecutively, it was certainly a formidable challenge, as a fan. Normally I'd be a restless, wanting to hear a familiar tune tossed into the mix, but somehow, that night, the set worked. The songs & the performance were solid. I espe cially liked "Mountaintop". I can hardly wait to hear the album!

Random thoughts & observations: Jesse and Prairie were outstanding throughout the evening – both the old and new material sounded great, with their contributions, especially Jessie's background vocals. Michael Bolton on keyboards, guitar, and vocals did a nice job with his versatility, rounding out the necessary parts that Todd's material calls for.

Rachel, unfortunately, had a spotty night. She sounded firm and confident playing the new material. But with some of the older material, she still needs to do her homework. For example, early in the set, during Todd’s solo in "Black Maria", her bass part wandered off into parts unknown, so much that Prairie was seen frantically waving his free hand over his head, trying to get her attention, and help her back to where the rest of the band was. At the conclusion of the song, after Todd appeared to jokingly comment to her, she playfully kicked his butt.

What was worse was when she got completely lost somewhere in Todd's "Just One Victory" guitar solo – I’m not talking about a few flubbed bass notes – I’m talkin’ the bass part sounded like it shifted to different key! She never caught up to the rest of the band; the look on her face as she tried to unsuccessfully wade thru the end of the song was embarrassment and panic. By the end of the song, Prairie, Jessie, and Michael had each looked over in her direction, with an…incredulous glare (I kid you not). Todd ended his solo (and the song) properly, but was wondering why Prairie & Jessie were still playing – I think Prairie was trying to control the slow-moving car crash safely to the side of the road, but got confused himself. But hey, if playing rock n' roll was easy, anyone could do it. Another random thought: where was the merchandise table? All my Todd t-shirts are old & faded!

Last random thought: I have a love/hate thing going with the Great American Music Hall of late – when the cocktail tables are laid out for the show (and the food waiters and drink waitresses graciously take orders), there's no place better to see a show in SF. But when there are no tables, and all the good seats along the balcony edge upstairs are "reserved" (for those on the non-paying 'guest list'), it quickly turns into one of the least desirable venues to watch a show. It's great that Todd can sell out a place like the GAMH, but c'mon, 40 or so "reserved" seats for late-comers? Not fair!

Bottom Line: Todd is still "A Wizard".

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7/06/2008 - Great American Music Hall - San Francisco, CA

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