The Bijou Theater in Knoxville is a quaint, but simply beautiful venue for a show. Seats around 700 with a mezzanine and upper balcony, and although we had fourth-row seats - off to the left in front of the speakers - the sound was incredible, but not so overpowering that we had ringing in our ears after the show!
If you've read other reviews, the play list is the same as in other cities. And despite an earlier comment by a fan that the cover songs, "Lunatic Fringe" and "The Walls Came Down," should be replaced by other Todd/Utopia hits, the crowd was really into both of these songs and they were received warmly. Also, Todd did make a comment about Sarah Palin before "Lunatic Fringe," which was lost on the woman in front of us. She obviously missed the dig that Todd made at Palin and all she needed to hear was "Palin," as she kept shouting "We love Sarah, Go Sarah Palin. Woo-hoo."
The crowd, well it looked like me. Mid- to late-aging rockers who've loved Todd since the early days! During some banter by Todd in between songs, I heard a couple call-outs for "Determination" and "It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference." However, I think most people knew what they were in for as Todd made repeated comments about "getting hit in the face" with the new Arena material.
My wife and I listened non-stop to Arena the week before the show and I can't say enough about how wonderfully the band performed the new material. The mix-master did an incredible job of getting the sound right and only on "Bardo" was there a technical difficulty as Rachel's bass was initially too heavy, but was quickly remedied. You could tell that Todd really loves playing this new material and said, "We've been playing this stuff since July and we're really tight." Talk about an understatement! As I said, in my opinion, this was easily the best Todd performance I've ever heard, including the Ra and Nearly Human tours, which I feel were some of his best.
What struck me during the night was the professionalism of everyone in the band. These guys have their act together and it showed throughout the entire set. Jesse, Rachel, Prairie, and Kasim were nothing short of amazing. Great harmonies, incredible musicians, and a comraderie really came across as you could tell these guys love each other and the music they are bringing to their fans. These guys truly are amazing artists and I'm so grateful to have seen them live.
I could go on for days about my wonderful Arena experience and look forward to my next opportunity to see Todd. For those in Europe and the remaining stateside tour, get ready to rock it, Arena-style!