I had low expectations for Todd, based on three reviews posted on a fansite. They all cited vocal issues during his performance two nights prior at BB King’s in NYC. Well…whatever issues may have existed before the Saturday (7/9/11) show at the Ohio Theatre in Cleveland, they disappeared. Vanished, poof. Todd’s voice lacked nothing in power or emotion. Maybe he got over his cold. Who knows? Who cares? It was a great show, from a great showman of his era.
The show opened with Todd’s excellent four-piece band, including long-time Utopia bandmate Kasim Sultan on bass and Tubes drummer Prairie Prince playing the familiar opening to Todd’s 1975 “Initiation” hit “Real Man.” The man himself bound onto the stage from behind the curtains to grab the mic and prove all was right with his voice, and the world.
I was familiar with about half the songs Todd and company performed. The last time I saw Todd was when he was backing his 1991 release “Second Wind” at Nautica. That was a weird Todd show. Saturday’s show was more of a greatest hits concert, although he made a point of saying “We don’t play requests, especially when you yell ‘Play Leroy Boy!’ That’s not even the name of the song!” (Indeed, “We Gotta Get you a Woman” was conspicuously excluded.) He DID include a blues number from an apparently obscure album, and I loved it. I Gotta Get Me That Album.
Why were so many people leaving their seats during less familiar songs? Oh yeah, we’re OLD. We had to pee. A shame, since my time came during the soul medley from 1973′s “A Wizard, a True Star,” which took me back to the Cleveland Agora during the “Back to the Bars” days in 1978. What a show THAT was. And what a show THIS was, according to my friend Dan, a 37-year old Beach Boys/Monkees/psychedelia fan who had little prior exposure to Todd. He was totally impressed. Another Todd convert (although he wished “International Feel” from “Wizard” had been included in the set list.)
Early in the show, Todd removed his self-described “cabin boy” jacket, to reveal a “Cleveland” t-shirt. “This is where it all began,” he said, “and this is where it may all end. But we won’t think about that now.” He sat on a stool during much of the show, saying it was his concession to his 63 years. But when he moved, he MOVED, dancing and playing his “long-bow” (guitar) with the same deft touch he’s always displayed.
Besides the “Real Man/Love of the Common Man” opening, highlights included the too-brief trade-off between Todd and Kas on “Couldn’t I Just Tell You,” and “Hawking,”(see the video below) from the excellent 1989 album “Nearly Human,” which showcased the extent to which Todd’s voice “healed” in the time since the BB King show reviews. The encore was a sweet “Hello It’s Me,” even with the calypso “With a Twist” interlude, and the finale “A Dream Goes on Forever.”
Why not another encore, Todd? “Just One Victory” would have been great to hear. Even with bursting bladders.