There's the old saying, "It's all about the music", but I'm not a believer in that anymore. Ultimately, Todd's music is what brought everyone together for this special weekend and without it this party wouldn't have happened, but this gig, like many other Todd gigs, was also about the Todd fan camaraderie - - - and in this case it was as good as it gets.
The fans present were from all different parts of the country and it was pretty evident that they were all glad they made the trip to Las Vegas no matter how far they had traveled to get there. There were fans meeting again from past concerts and even Toddstock. There were also fans that were meeting some of the other fans there for the first time. It didn't matter what their history was with Todd fandom, albeit 2 years or 40 years, everyone seemed happy just to be around other fans that understood their passion for Todd's music.
When the band walked onto the stage and got into their respective positions, Todd immediately started with some of his always interesting and witty banner. He talked about these kinds of gigs possibly being the way of the future and then he complimented the audience. I knew right then and there this was going to be a night to remember.
The fan team that put this together (myself, Darnelle Corbett, Melinda "CruiserMel" Cain, and Steve Hartstein) didn't try to make any demands about what the band played and would have been happy with anything. I'll admit that I did worry a little bit about the setlist though because people had paid a good bit more than the normal ticket price for a Todd gig because this one was limited to only 100 fans.
Weeks before the show, I hinted to Michele that I would love to hear "The Wheel" and Steve made the same request to Prairie and Todd a few times on my behalf. The thinking behind that request had several reasons behind it. The obvious one was because I love that song and had never seen it live, but I also figured it had a fair shot because Todd could do it solo and Rachel doesn't know his entire catalog. We also knew it was a popular song among the Todd fans and would make this show different than the Arena shows most of us had already seen. I figured it was worth a shot but really didn't expect to hear it. We made sure to have an acoustic guitar handy just in case he wanted to go that route.
The music began and the first song was, "Love In Action" which was a big relief because that meant they were going to play most or all of the current tour setlist. You would have thought it was the opening ceremony at the Olympics the way the cameras were going off. The crowd was camera crazy and that might have had something to do with our camera policy which was, "Take lots of pictures and then share them". The attendees answered the call and you can see over 1000 photos at www.photobucket.com/trvegas.
Setlist prior to encores
Love In Action Walls Came Down Black Maria Open My Eyes Lunatic Fringe I Saw The Light Mad Afraid Mercenary Gun Courage Weakness Strike Pissin Today Bardo Mountaintop Panic ManupTodd and the band were absolutely on fire the entire time and the crowd followed the routine of raising their fists during "Strike" and raising their hands up (palm side up) in the air during "Mountaintop" when it was time to yell, "Higher higher". Just when I started to think "Bardo" was a mellow enough song to take a break and sit down, Todd breaks into some guitar playing that almost caught the venue on fire. I don't really know a good way to explain it, but the band was able to give "I Saw The Light" a more edgier sound than normal which was quite a treat. Every song sounded great and was well received. Robert Frazza and the guys helping him did a great job with the sound.
Another thing that made this gig different was the way Rachel Haden appeared to be as comfortable as ever and was hamming it up with Todd almost the entire show. It was a treat to see her having so much fun up there. She appeared to be having an absolute blast from start to finish. She'd been showing signs of having fun at the other shows of course, but this was different. Jesse was awesome on guitar as always and he seemed to be having a great time as well especially since his sweet wife Mary Lou was there. And it would be a crime not to mention Prairie Prince acing it on drums despite already playing gigs two nights in a row before this one.
This show already had the makings for something special but it was also making a few dreams come true. Todd fan Grady Moates played a major role in helping with the sound equipment. Todd fan Brian Grace was invited on stage to play Sax with the band during the song "Pissin".
After "Manup" the band left the stage, and as most bands do, they made the crowd beg for the encores :). We begged of course and they came back out on stage.
I heard Todd's guitar and thought I was dreaming. You guessed it - - - "The Wheel". The crowd went wild with excitement, especially me. No acoustic guitar or solo, the entire band was performing the song and Todd had Foamy in his hands. I looked to my left and Ed Vigdor was singing along and going crazy jumping around. I looked behind me and my wife was tearing up because she was so happy to see me get to hear my request and she knew how rewarding that was for me. I looked at Steve and he was grinning as he watched me sing along to the song. I'm guessing he was also reflecting on his first time to hear "The Wheel" live decades ago. I looked at Michele Rundgren and she had a big smile on her face. I look around at the whole crowd and everyone was singing along and having a great time. It was an emotional moment I'll never forget. I guess you could say it was like being in Utopia. I don't know what ultimately made Todd decide to do the song, but I do know he made a lot of people extremely happy for doing it. Several of the fans there told me after the show it was their first time to see the song live.
As if things weren't great enough already, Todd & company closed out the show with "Just One Victory" and the crowd continued to go wild while singing along and swinging their arms and having a great time. It was the perfect way to close out the show.
We planned for an after-show party in the venue but weren't sure whether or not Todd would be joining us. We hoped he would of course and he did in a big way. He walked out from backstage and proceeded to go over to the bar where we had two cakes laying there waiting to be eaten. One cake was a giant replica of Todd's green guitar pick including the autograph. The other cake had an edible 8x10 photo of the Arena promo poster on it. Freed's Bakery in Vegas made the cakes and we couldn't have asked for a better job from them. Todd planted himself in a chair and began cutting the cake and serving pieces of cake to the fans. How cool is that? He was clearly having a good time and even let some fans take pictures of him with cake on his face. He didn't have to come out there and mingle, he chose to do it. I think that speaks volumes for the fans that were in attendance.
Jesse, Prairie, and Rachel also mingled with the crowd. Mary Lou was hanging out with us as well. Michele Rundgren was with the fans from start to finish and I asked her to step over to the cakes so we could make sure she got a certain area of the Arena cake :). We just couldn't have asked for a better after-show party if we tried.
That night and the next day a few of the spouses/guests of some of the Todd fans in attendance let me know they had been converted to being new Todd fans because of Sunday night.
I'm still trying to figure out if this whole thing was a dream. If it was, I hope the dream goes on forever.