Todd and company took the stage and Todd was clearly upset at the venue and my heart dropped to my shoes at the thought that he might decide to skip Portland next time. NO!!! I am sure I screamed even louder after that. Todd had only to give the word and a flock of devotees would have hunted down any guilty parties, but instead he chose to channel the upset into blistering guitar energy. Psychic sparks flashed from Todd's fingers as he burned up "Black Maria". Mesmerizing!
Our Hero somewhat settled down to his groove after the first set of four songs and everyone breathed a little easier. Still, the performance was hard-edged, fast, precise - driven. Rock! Perhaps the funniest moment of the evening was when someone had the temerity to loudly request Hello It's Me. Todd quickly turned and said "Please escort this gentleman out and refund double his money". He explained further that he just wasn't in the mood. Todd told us later that we were getting lucky and had the treat of I Saw the Light before moving on to the new material.
Listening to a new Todd album has always been something of an event for me, but it has always been private and intimate as I sit in head-phoned solitude open-souled with a desire to grok the new musical sensations and meanings. Hearing Arena along with other Toddfans was novel, both in understanding the new music and as a concert experience itself, as I found myself listening rather than communing. I realized that I love to sing along to channel the concert energy back to the stage, but wasn't able to do that except for a few of the songs which were easier to catch the chorus. There was sort of an odd emptiness at the lack of ability to achieve the normal state of consciousness with music that is your old and trusted friend, but my lack of familiarity was tempered by the wonder of new. There was no better place to hear a new album than in the company of other fans who care.
I really liked Mad, Gun, the infectious Strike and Mountaintop, but by far the best new song for me was Today. We all have our favorites, but the electronic sound of this song had me vibrating, and I similarly adore Truth and Afterlife on Liars as well. Bliss would be a whole album of these multiple layered songs with their unearthly beautiful intros and breaks - for me it is like listening to the finest symphony that touches the core of my soul. Today is bound to be on my 'meditate to' short list.
Todd, if you do happen to read this, you asked what arena to play. I suggest one of the McMenamin Brothers establishments. The Crystal Ballroom is a great hall to choose, but better yet might be a mini Toddfest at McMenamin's Edgefield Manor where they have a marvelous set up for a concert on the lawn (complete with Jerry Garcia memorial) in conjunction with one of the coolest hotel-brewery-pub combinations ever. These seriously creative hippie-era Celtic gentlemen run a proper pub with libations of their own brewing, love music and know how to treat a master bard. Whatever you decide, though, I'll be sure to be there!