Club Bene - South Amboy, NJ - 11/25/1998

by David Yuan

Just got back from the pre-Thanksgiving TRTV-fest at Club Bene -- or as Todd noted several times during the set "Lovely South Amboy, the most beautiful of all Amboys." This was once accompanied by the comment "Now that I live in Hawaii, there's nothing more wonderful than being in New Jersey in November."

The show was what I (and maybe 3/4 of the crowd) expected -- extremely loose, extremely mellow, lots of good fun. Todd was the most relaxed that I've ever seen him, but in a good way -- the performances were unforced, and it gave some of the songs some nice breathing room, if you know what I mean.

"I Don't Want To Tie You Down" was strong, as was "Song of the Viking," "Too Far Gone" and "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away." Even "Compassion" and "Love of the Common Man" -- the two songs I most wish Todd would retire -- sounded fresh. I like the version of "Bang," though I have a feeling that this was not one of the stellar performances of it.

Todd had the dreaded/beloved mistakes under control -- for the most part -- though he was exerting heavily on the ivories, and Jesse kept causing him to giggle, and the ongoing guitar and uke tuning problems continue. The computer was a huge distraction to Todd, but that should be of no surprise to anyone who has seen a solo tour since 1982 or so.

There was one truly sublime moment, and it only lasted a second, but gave me goosebumps. Hard to explain, but during "Mated," towards the end, there was this truly transdescent phrasing of the word "anyone" -- I can't explain, but someone behind me picked it up, too -- I heard her say, "wow" right after the goosebumps hit me. This sounds loony, but I'm sure many of you have had a similar experience at one time or another.

As for the crowd, well, 1/4 definitely was disappointed. The looooooosssseeee pacing annoyed some of the fans, and the fact that "Black and White" was the only electric number didn't sit well. Many of them had clearly not heard "With A Twist," and were confused by the ending of the set -- "Hey, these are the songs I wanted to hear, but he's doing them different..."

Tough. I got what I wanted -- lots of laughs, some favorite tunes, and goosebumps. Thanks.