I went into the show expecting "Healing" to be the quiet little opening appetizer and "Todd" to be the main course. Since so much of "Healing" is synth-based and atmospheric-y, I just didn't see it lending itself to being played by a band. (I was thinking it might get the "Todd sings with his laptop" treatment in the opening slot.) But instead, the show opened with the "Todd" album, which was fun and all, but a full-band rendering of "Healing" felt like the much more focused and powerful centerpiece. So happy to see that album get its due.
If you would have asked me 2 days ago, I would have said that even though "Healing" is an album that I love dearly, it doesn't seem like one that would be particularly exciting to see performed live (especially side 2). Who wants to meditate at a rock concert? Right now I'm hard pressed to think of any concert experience I've ever had that I found more exciting, meant more to me, or which stirred me more emotionally.
The crowd was hanging onto and reacting to every move on stage. That made the show even better.
Even though the albums are from quite a few year back, performed live, they felt fresh and vital. I don't believe "Healing" was toured back in the day (other than a couple of songs that have cropped-up in other tours) and a lot of "Todd" hadn't been played live in decades and some of it maybe never. So at least in the context of live performance, a lot of this show is "new material." It didn't feel like musicians sleep-walking through a 35 year old record that they've played 10,000 times before. This felt like they were tackling fresh, challenging material, attempting feats of musical daring that they might not make it through, and going for it. Some of those edges might get polished over the remaining few shows, but I thought the occasional talking back and forth, directing, cues, etc gave the show a fun and intimate character.
The Todd album is an inspired choice for this type of show (as was AWATS) 'cause there is such a range of material: Hendrixian acid guitar rock, dense electronic instrumentals, show tunes, signature Todd pop, near-metal rockers, anthems, ballads... it was a great showcase of musical muscle and adventure, and a great ride live. Though compared to the AWATS show, chucking the costume changes this year was a big step in the right direction.
I was surprised to see Todd behind the piano so much, because I thought he had sworn off the thing, which is probably best for the one-man-type shows. With the aid of a band/supporting cast, however, I thought he did a fine job and it added a lot. Sure there were a couple of little clams in there maybe... they fit perfectly in the drunken blue roster, and he seemed to be riffing on that. The intro to Shine with just Todd at the piano was great. Though admittedly, his piano appeared to single-handedly nearly sink "Don't You Ever Learn" at one point.
There were many highlights, but a couple that I wouldn't have expected: The Spark of Life (great build-up and benefitted from the looser live treatment). And Flesh.
The last song of the night was "Sons of 1984" which, although I like some of the message and all, I just have never been crazy about. But at the show, the crowd was doing its sing-along schtick at the end of the song, and the curtain came down and the band faded-out, and the crowd kept on singing. And kept on going. And going. House lights come-up, and the crowd keeps on going. I suppose the band fade-out was done that way to set this all up, but it was cool. And I HATE contrived audience sing-along stuff.
I thought this was TR - and for my money, music itself - at it's very best: adventurous, self-examining, and inspirational.