On Friday night (December 28, 2012), despite hours of torrential freezing rain, a packed venue awaited Todd Snider. The anticipation was palpable. The audience was almost to the point of adulation, ecstatic to hear even the most obscure numbers. Hardcore Snider fans were in abundance. The Warehouse at Mt. Victor in Bowling Green, KY was eat UP with Toddheads, yo.
All of which put Amanda Shires, as opening act, in an unenviable position. How do you get a sea of beer, chairs, and smartphones to shut up and pay attention? Answer: a promising set of charming, quirky songs and self-deprecating humor. She meandered a bit, but eventually hit her mark, especially after being joined by fiancé Jason Isbell (Drive-By Truckers, 400 Unit) on guitar. After all, rub two sticks together and sparks begin to fly. (Highlight: “When You Need A Train It Never Comes”.)
Joined by Isbell and Shires (on fiddle), Snider then proceeded to turn those sparks into a full-blown forest fire. Despite being greeted as a conquering hero, he has a certain ramshackle presence. It’s almost like he wanders onstage by accident. Like he fell out of a boxcar, saw a neon ‘$1.00 TAP’ sign in the distance, and figured that’s where he needed to be. He seems genuinely surprised that people love him. An amiable high-functioning stoner, if you will. He strikes me as the kind of guy who might alternately pontificate on the importance of the Higgs Boson and the early material of Three Six Mafia. Or speak universal truth through a knock-knock joke. And he probably knows the exact chemical properties of bong water. (Mad props, Todd.) In a live setting, he has the same happenstance charm of Willie Nelson or the Grateful Dead. When the wheels threaten to fall off, that’s just part of the deal. That’s how ragged beauty rolls, dig?
Snider and company spent the evening see-sawing back and forth between outlaw Americana and wordy Dylanesque numbers. Alternately sad, philosophical, and riotous, he has an uncanny knack of making you laugh and break down crying within the span of one line. Whiplash via couplet. Dude can rock a serious quatrain, ya’ll.
He’s had his share of ‘hits’ (‘Alright Guy’, ‘Talkin’ Seattle Grunge Rock Blues’, ‘Beer Run’, ‘Trouble’). Tonight, however, they were AWOL. He didn’t play a single one of them. The closest he came to performing a ‘hit’ was his version of Jerry Jeff Walker’s ‘Mr. Bojangles’. Instead, he took requests and showered the faithful. At the end of each and every song, a massive and deafening word cloud of song titles would appear. To his credit, he did as many of them as he could. (He even cut down on the stories to concentrate on playing more requests.)
This was a show obviously tailored to the dedicated Toddhead, not the fair-weathered. And the crowd’s response? They ate him up like a Twizzler and washed it all down with Lime-A-Ritas.
Needless to say, Snider did not disappoint. (I’m not even sure he’s capable of dialing up a disappointing show. With material this strong, he’d really have to make a monumental effort at failure. I’m not sure he can do it.)
Here’s hoping he comes back to Bowling Green. If you haven’t seen him, you should. He’s an alright guy, I think.
You may ask yourself: “Was this gig recorded? How can I get a copy of this particular Todd Snider show?”
Funny you should ask. They are archived here:
Give them some time and I’m sure the Warehouse gig will be uploaded for purchase.
~ Michael Franklin
Michael Franklin is the Media & Reserves Specialist at Western Kentucky University’s Visual & Performing Arts Library (VPAL). Michael is also a professional musician and sound engineer. He is currently recording his 6th CD with his best friends Screenlast 6.0 and Audacity Sourceforge. He thinks Iggy Pop is the greatest singer in the history of music. If you disagree, you’re wrong. You better ask somebody.
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