Well, I met a Todd fan there who came from as far away as Japan. And being a Saigonese myself, I can truly relate. Fortunately, for this gig we only had to drive twelve hundred miles from Dallas (with three kids in tow!) to go see the Wizard. Along the way we took our time see parts of America that we'd never seen before. Springfield (MO), St. Louis, Indianapolis, Columbus, Cincinnati, Nashville, Memphis... Oh, and we also visited the so-called R&R HoF in Cleveland and stayed a few nights at this curious little city, Akron, which I didn't even existed much less how to pronounce its name properly.
By the time we got to our hotel, which was a few miles outside Akron, it was already 2AM Sunday morning. I figured the RundgrenRadio Birthday Bash was pretty much over by then so I didn't bother checking it out (little did I know that it would go on to almost 4 in the morning.) Would have been nice to join the gang for a few drinks and link up with some old Toddstock friends and make some new ones. But there would be time for that yet, I thought.
The next day we made our way to Party Central to hear Kaz perform. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the ball room was packed. There weren't enough chairs. Some people had to stand. On our way down to the ballroom Kaz walked into our elevator in pajamas, guitar in hand. I had no idea what was going on. I must have missed the memo from the night before or something, so I just said "Hi Kaz!"
His show was short but sweetly delivered. The audience was really into it, humming and singing and clapping along. I saw Greg Hawkes standing near the entrance watching, bobbing his head to the music. It was a mellow and wonderful scene. Saw lots of old friends there. Got to meet Kaz again afterwards and had him autograph my POV album. Took some pics of Prairie and Greg as well. Gentlemen, all.
Nothing like opening night, especially THIS opening night. What else can I say? AWATS was my first initiation to Todd. I admit it took my college buddy a long time to get it through my head, but got it I eventually did. And now I'm about to hear it live for the first time ever? You kiddin' me? I must've had a grin bigger than the damn marquee in front of the Civic Theatre.
On our drive up I made a point of playing AWATS in the van as much as possible to get myself and the kids warmed up (interspersed with Powell's "Fossil Poet" during quieter parts of the drive). But nothing prepared for the opening notes of "Road to Utopia". I couldn't believe my ears and my eyes. Being a rather latecomer to Todd-dom, I'd never heard any of these tunes live before, so for me this was truly my first taste of Utopia (sans Willlie, of course.) And when Todd slapped on the Ikon I knew all those long lonely miles were worth it. Even though this was only an abridged version, it was enough to satisfy my long-time Ikon itch. Hope there will be more to come.
Wait another year, maybe?
Anyway, after an intermission that seemed at least that long, the house lights finally came down to a deafening roar. The loudest crowd I'd ever heard at any Todd show. The intensity and anticipation was palpable. When the opening synthesizer sequences started buzzing in darkness as the stars softly flickered from the ornate theatre's ceiling, the crowd only got louder and louder. And when the stage lights finally burst forth and Todd seemingly floated out amidst the smoke in his NASA space suit, well... the roof pretty much came down at the Akron Civic Theatre. You just had to be there.
From the balcony, I could see that most of the floor audience had stood up and remained standing the entire show. The energy inside the hall was positively intense. Todd and the band fed off of it and began to take us through a fantastic, mind-bending, soul-fulfilling, joy-jamming journey that defied my wildest expectations. There were a few technical glitches here and there, sure. Could it have been more rehearsed or organized? Perhaps. But overall Todd essentially delivered into the world a new masterpiece, musically and theatrically. And we were lucky enough to be there to witness it firsthand. How cool is that?
When the final number, JOV, was over and the house lights came back on, I saw RR Doug a few rows in front of me up in the balcony, so I came by to congratulate and thank him for putting this event together. I told Doug that he had set a very high bar indeed, which he graciously acknowledged in his understated Southern manner. But knowing him and Mel, I'm sure they'll eventually find a way to top even this one.
Wait another year? (hint, hint...)