Toad's Place, New Haven, 2/15

by Steve Masse

Well, plans being what they are, my wife Ann and I decided to keep ours and go to this show on a frigid Sunday night despite her not feeling that great. Keep in mind that she is 5 1/2 months pregnant and a real trooper for making the effort - probably because I was going either way having missed leg #1 of this tour and not wanting to miss it again. So, off we go and make the 2 hour drive down to New Haven from Massachusetts. For some reason, I miscalculated how long of a drive this was, and we arrived at Toad's right at 9 pm when the show was supposed to start. To our surprise, Todd's tour bus pulled up to the venue at the same time as we walked by, and we thought "Hey, I wonder if Todd's in there?". Not wanting to make too big a deal of this, we just hesitated by Toad's main door and just as we hoped, Todd jumped off the bus with woman friend in tow and went in the side door!!! It happened quickly, and we were too far away to say Hi with the loud bus noise and all, but it was cool just the same. But, we both looked at each other and said "Man, he doesn't look too good. Must still be sick." We really felt bad for him, cause I think he would have been better off in bed. Oh well, the show must go on.

A good sized crowd inside, the stage looks really cool, and we're thankful the show started about 15-20 minutes late. Just before the start, Kasim walked right in front of where we were standing, but we didn't make eye contact and for that moment couldn't believe it enough to risk embarrassment and blurt out something stupid like "Hey dude". Too bad, I guess vanity has it's price. Surprising to me was that I don't think anyone around us saw him or knew who he was. Just looked like a regular guy, pretty cool.

Anyway, the show starts and Todd is really, really struggling to get his voice going. After the first song, he mentions something to the effect that he is fighting a nasty Asian virus that has taken hold of his vocal cords for the past few weeks and won't let go. Todd vowed to "make it up to you somehow before the night is through". Ironically, the next song was Influenza. Honestly, after the excitement of seeing Todd again wore off, the first set was kindof lacking. In my opinion, the performance of this musical style puts so much emphasis on the vocals that it's boring without it. The band is almost an afterthought, since there's only so much they can do in this format. Perhaps that's why they looked somewhat disinterested with what was going on ( or was that part of the act ????). Anyhow, Todd was still in good enough spirits to crack a few jokes and was more talkative than in past shows. Someone shouted out the punchline to the Spice Girls joke at which he screamed at the start of the next song "Don't F...K with my punchline". He really put alot of hand and body movement into this set from his chair, to the point that I thought he was going to jump out of the damb thing (esp during Espresso). He truly deserved an 'A for effort' as the saying goes.

The second set was worth the price of admission, and it was great to see Todd moving around. His Warrior of Love costume and facepaint was certainly thought provoking, and, looking back, his ability to interact with the on-stage participants was remarkable. Can anyone think of another artist who has this charisma, or who would even give the audience a chance to sit on stage?? I doubt it. The show peaks with Real Man and Can't Stop Running and very loud cheers and applause. Todd seems pleased to hear the reaction. Surprisingly, my favorite from this set and the entire show was Eastern Intrigue. I've never seen this song performed, and all the elements of this show just seemed like a perfect match for this tune. I love it when Todd's gestures accentuate the lyrical content, and he did a masterful job here. I now have a new outlook on a song that I previously had forgotten about!!! This set ends with Hello It's Me in a huge smoke screen as Todd and the band sneak off one by one - when it clears, they're gone. Perhaps the message here is that this song is doing a disappearing act from Todd's live shows from here on out. I certainly hope so. I love this song, but haven't we all heard it enough already?? ( Bring back Bang the Drum !!! - only kidding - I guess you'd have to go to the Super Bowl to hear that one again - Whew ).

Well, my wife is getting tired by the start of the third set (can you blame her?) and she makes her way to the back to get some "fresh" air and hopefully sit down. Listening to these love songs by myself wasn't that gratifying and I think the Bossa Nova beat has finally worn me down. I make my way back to check on Ann, and she's not a happy camper - sore feet, sore back, too much smoke, etc. and she's asking "Are these Todd songs?" I try to explain that they're cover tunes, but hormones do strange things to pregnant women, and I knew it was time to go. Now I'm feeling guilty for putting her through all this. Oh well, perhaps we were somehow playing out our part, and we left with an empty feeling before the last song was over.

I heard Neil Young say one time that a performer shouldn't be out there if he/she isn't willing to give 110% every night. I think he's right, and TR in my opinion gave it everything he had in New Haven and tried his hardest to make the best of it all. A good lesson for us all, I'm sure.

Wishing TR's retirement continues with more concert tours,
Steve Masse