As entertaining as the old material was, the true thrust of the show were the Arena songs. Let's face it, the planet is entering a state of crisis and the mood is heavy. So leave it to our supple artist to dispatch the 11th hour wake up call. The musicianship was so good, at times I didn't know quite who to focus on. Prairie played with such authority & precision in his Gladiator outfit, that I personally feel his talent rivals such mad men as Keith Moon and John Bonham. Jesse with all his expertise and endless tricks up his sleeves, ear pleasing vocals gives the whole sound a nice sparkle. The best surprise were the pleasing body thumping pulses coming out of Rachel's Bass. In Kauai I thought she was a bit in the background, perhaps a little intimidated taking on the venerable Kasim Sultan's role. She stepped up in a big way with confidence and competence clearly holding her own. Matt played well enough but still a little too tentative. There are still enough shows left on this tour for him grab his own shining moment I hope.
Lucky for us, most of the new songs were filled with string torturing heavy metal jams. Strings kept breaking on Foamy and ironically the best solos seemed to come out of the light green back up guitar, whatever its name is. The sarcastic "pissin" hit the spot and the eerie "bardo" had me with eyes closed dancing all trance-like. "Strike" was literally a fist pumping song to which the entire dance floor participated. The new material was well received by the fired up fans yelling things like "you f*ing rock" etc. Our hero was a raging beast throughout!
Couldn't I Just Tell You provided a good fix for all the nostalgia buffs. Just One Victory was well played instrumentally, but the way Todd forgot most of the words was hard to understand since the band has been finishing up with it every night. But that just might be telling that Todd's heart is in the present moment with the current material, as was mine, and that is as it should be. To think a friend and I were concerned that last year's show was so tight that it would be nearly impossible to top it. By comparison, this concert blew last year's into subatomic fragments, and that's saying a lot!
Furthermore about the Aladdin Theater, the crusty venue hosts many so called "legacy artist". This rat hole used to be porno theater in the 70's playing the cult classic, "Deep Throat" day in and day out. The vibe and karma of this proverbial den of iniquity should bring out the angst in anybody. Todd if you're reading this, just to let you know, I back you up all the way for having the balls and honesty to say what needed to be said. STAY A REBEL MY FRIEND!! But whatever you do, please do not take it out on the fans. I think you played in Portland in the mid 70's (and I heard you were pretty mad about something at that one) not to return until 1990!! There's nothing we'd hate more than another dry spell like that. Obviously you're not going to play at the Aladdin again, but I would personally go out of my way to find you a better venue in the Rose City. My fantasy would be for you to play at the historic Crystal Ballroom. This is an exceptionally nice place and appropriate for the best in the biz.