Oh What A Night: Todd Snider Live (and John Rogers Fully Exposed)
They said it couldn't be done, they said there was just no way we could ever top last year's Todd Snider show down in Bellingham, they said that after a show - and a night - THAT good there was simply no point in even trying, but "they" obviously don't know Todd Snider... or my friend Johnny "The Flash-er" Rogers. Yes, hard as it may be to believe, at least for all those of you who read my rave about last year's show/night down in Washington State, this time around was, in fact, even better.
The show, on Thursday night (February 7th) at a place called Pat's Pub in Vancouver, was Todd's only Canadian show on his present tour. And man was he ever good! But, like any great show, it wasn't just about the music on stage, it was the whole event: the getting together with friends, drinking some beer and letting loose. And since River, the star, along with Todd, of our whole experience last March, couldn't make it this time, I challenged my buddy Johnny to "Pull a River" and, damn, if he didn't actually come through big time and pull it off.
Now all those of you who have read about last year's show will probably doubt that it's even possible, but I swear it's true, Johnny somehow actually out-did River. No, he didn't sneak into the back room and steal a bottle of wine, a fruit platter and a whole load of other stuff after Todd had left the premises and, no, he didn't puke right at the border or hug everyone in the bar, but, I'm telling ya, like some modern-day Frank Sinatra, he did it his way. He knew full well about River's Bellingham exploits and antics, but rather than run away from the challenge he took everything to a whole new level.
Once again, just like last year's Todd show and last summer's White Stripes concert, I attended this show as part of The Magnificent Seven, albeit a slightly altered version of the group. As with all previous shows, Dr. Hip was there, of course, as was my dad and his partner Susan. But this time Dr. Hip's wife, Karin, joined us as well, as did Johnny and my wife, Sonoko. And this time Dr. Hip also brought along his entourage, his posse, his crew. I'm talking about his 3 friends and colleagues, all, like Dr. Hip and Karin, neuropsychologists.
More about them later, but first let me tell you about Todd Snider. It was a truly electrifying show. Just him, his guitar and a harmonica. And he was much more interactive with the crowd this year. I mean, last year was fantastic, but this was even better. The man's simply an amazing storyteller, and he's hilarious too, both in song and in pre-song banter, as well as out-and-out long-form storytelling.
The best story of all was the longest one, the one about him trying to impress his dad by joining the football team back in high school, but eventually finding his true team, "the burnouts", over on that other field called "the smoking pit". This story went on for more than 5 minutes and had the whole place completely cracking up.
Another definite highlight was "Beer Run", which had everyone jubilantly and enthusiastically singing along in full voice: "B-double-e-double-r-u-n Beer Run/B-double-e-double-r-u-n Beer Run...". Myself, well, I sang along to just about every single song in the exact same manner, with merry drunken enthusiastic joy.
To name all the other highlights I'd have to name about 20 other songs because just about every single song was a highlight for me. But I'll tell you that I especially loved "I Can't Complain", "Tillamook County Jail", "Alright Guy" (my dad's theme song), "Just Like Old Times", "If Tomorrow Never Comes", "Iron Mike's Main Man's Last Request", and, of course, "Conservative Christian, Right-Wing Republican, Straight, White, American Males". And not to forget "Play A Train Song". And then there was this new song called "America's Favorite Pastime", about the time the pitcher Dock Ellis threw a no hitter on LSD back in the '70s. Definitely Todd's kind of guy.
With some acts you could see them a year later and it'd basically be the same show you saw last time, but not with Todd. In fact, if you look online at the set lists from his shows over the past month you'll see he never repeats the same show twice. Doesn't even come close. In fact, he completely mixes up the set list and songs each and every night. And in our show on Thursday I believe he sang at least one song from every one of his albums, going all the way back to 1994.
And what about Johnny, you ask, how exactly did he out-River River? Well, after the show had ended and the lights were back on and people were just sitting around drinking and talking, he took off his clothes, put his jeans over his head and ran through the bar fully exposed. But not just that. No, he also proceeded to do a full somersault over a chair and land on his head - cutting it open - before continuing on out the door to streak down East Hastings. It was a thing of beauty. Pure genius! He then returned and lay on the floor and challenged Dr. Hip's neuropsych doctor friends to leg wrestles. For some reason they declined. You could literally see them all trying to figure out just what was going on inside his brain. It was like a perfect controlled experiment for them.
Now, before anyone goes jumping to any conclusions, let me make one thing absolutely clear here, Johnny may be a lot of things, but he's definitely not one of those guys who exposes himself out of some uncontrollable desire to show everyone his massive manliness. Far, far from it. In fact, every time he strips and runs around naked in public he's actually showing nothing more than his incredible bravery. And I think that's why all those left in the bar, including the manager and all the staff, simply laughed and cheered him on. It's not like he was going to hurt anyone with that thing.
By the way, East Hastings is one of the roughest streets/areas in Vancouver, and all of Canada, for that matter. And that's where Todd told us he'd been walking all day. Which means he's probably going to go back home and tell everyone "Man, you won't believe how poor Canada is!" East Hastings, it should be noted, is also where I had the Worst Slice of Pizza In My Entire Life right before the show, but that's a whole other story.
It was such a great night, from the opening act, Sara McDougal, to the pub itself (not a dive at all, contrary to what you may expect considering the neighborhood), to the fact I wasn't driving for once and, therefore, could drink large amounts of beer, to Todd's and Johnny's amazing performances, to our slightly modified version of The Magnificent Seven. It was perfect!
Aside from The Worst Pizza Ever, there were really only two less-than-perfect things about the whole night. One was that the show felt a bit short at just an hour and 15 to 20 minutes long. But, to be fair, I would have felt the same way even if it had been 2 hours long. I needed more. It was just that good! And I really didn't want it to end.
The other minor problem was what happened when Johnny went a bit too far. I'm not talking about his streaking - that was great - I'm talking about when Todd was forced to cut short the first song of the encore, "Keep Off The Grass" - the very song we had been calling out for every time he asked for requests - due to Johnny, in his delirium, jumping up and screaming (in a voice so loud that Todd could clearly no longer hear himself singing) "Everybody now" every time the chorus came around. Luckily, like with River's break-and-enter last year, there were no long-term negative effects as Todd simply moved onto the next song and Johnny simply quieted down and started preparing for his Somersault of Full Exposure.
So that's about it. It was truly an amazing night. Apparently some people are into crowds of 20, or even 60, thousand people (and I've been to quite a few of those shows myself over the years), but, personally, I'll take a small intimate venue with an incredibly talented performer like Todd Snider over that sort of show any day. In fact, most of the best shows I've seen over the years have been in small, or relatively small, venues. I mean, yeah, I understand some people like their musicians up on a gigantic screen above the stage, it's just not my thing. The way I see it, being a few feet away from the artist, especially one as great as Todd, is as good as it gets when it comes to live music.
Especially this night. Beer, friends, a few tokes, an amazing show and Johnny running around with his bits and pieces on display for all to see, I'm telling you, people, it just doesn't get much better than that.
But that doesn't mean we can't try, right? The plan for next year's Todd Snider show is to have Johnny AND River come together. It actually causes simultaneous rushes of excitement and anxiety just thinking about it. Hopefully some of you will join us. I mean, you could even be a hater of all forms of music and still come away having one of the best nights of your life. That's how special it's going to be. If they're both on their game, and Todd is anywhere near as good as he was the other night, it could actually be the Greatest Night Ever. I know I'll be there.
Mike Cowie (Oredakedo)
Saturday, February 9th, 2008
I Can't Complain
Alcohol and Pills
All My Life
If Tomorrow Never Comes
Tillamook County Jail
Looking For a Job
Just Like Old Times
Iron Mike's Main Man's Last Request
Ballad of the Devil's Backbone Tavern
America's Favorite Pastime
Conservative Christian, Right-Wing Republican, Straight, White, American Males
Play a Train Song
Keep Off the Grass
And to read about another great Todd show click here: The Amazing Adventures of Todd Snider and The Magnificent Seven
Or simply check out The Todd Snider Rave
To read a review of his 2008 Peace Queer EP click here: The Todd Snider "Peace Queer" Rave
To read more of my raves about Todd Snider, both on album and in concert, click here: Todd Snider
And for more on other artists and albums click here: Music Homepage
Or here: Music: Album and Concert Raves
And to read more about Bob Dylan click here: The Bob (as in Dylan)