Sunday, February 13, 2011
Concert/Album Review: Todd Snider Live, Boston, Feb. 5
One month into this Boston gig and I already got to cross an artist off of my bucket list. Believe it or not folks, I saw Todd Snider for the first time on Saturday, February 5, at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston. This was my first Boston music outing, and compared to Toronto venues, the Paradise is way too nice for me to be hanging out in. It doesn't have the distinctive smell that the Horseshoe has. It doesn't have duct tape holding the walls up like at the El Mo. It isn't 20 bazillion degrees like Lee's Palace. Seriously, there is nice, shiny paint on the walls, plus unstained carpeting, fast bartenders, and sanitary bathrooms. What's up with that???
This show was a sit-down affair, which I wasn't really prepared for. I was mentally prepared to rock out all night (not that you can't do that sitting down, but still). The last time I was at a gig where seats were on the dance floor was at Gary Louris and Mark Olson in Toronto in February 2009. Like that show, I brought down the average age at this gig. And of course I didn't get there when the doors opened at 8, so I didn't get a seat, which is fine because I prefer to stand. I ambled up to the balcony and ended up meeting a bartender who is a huge fan of The Sadies (fuck yeah!), and the coolest dude ever, Zman, a well known taping fanatic. Rock on Zman!
This is where I mix the show review in with a review of Snider's latest album, Todd Snider Live: The Storyteller. I've been following Snider's music for a long time now, and his music and songwriting range everywhere from manic to brilliant. He's one of the few artists who still incorporates the long tradition of adding humor to country music. From everyone who I have talked to, who's blogs I've read, who post comments on alt country message boards (yeah, I'm a tool), they have all said that the Todd Snider live show is a completely different beast than his studio recordings. Not that his studio recordings aren't killer, but his live show's reputations supersede him. (Does that make any sense? I've been drinking.)
Regardless, my first "experience" with a Todd Snider live show came by the way of the greatest bootleg of all time, and I say this without hyperbole. One of Snider's superfans compiled, spliced together the best recordings, mastered, and made cover art for a five volume set of bootlegs which he named Tales From Moondawg's Tavern. Aside from the bootleg series for Bob Dylan put out by Sony records, this is the best bootleg in the world. I think my alt country music blogger colleagues would agree with this statement.
Todd Snider Live: The Storyteller. This album was complied over several shows during the last year and a half. On the album he is backed by a live band called Great American Taxi. His live set in Boston was solo acoustic. For the Boston gig he initially followed the first three tracks from this album, then veered off into audience requests and stuff that Snider felt like doing. Importantly, Snider sold/is selling official recordings from this show and subsequent shows. I bought a code card for $7 (right) which gives me the right to download and listen to the show that I just saw. In this digital age, being able to download the show is an incredibly easy marketing tool, and a great way to support the artists that you love. Snider is the first artist whom I have seen take this approach. I suspect that many others will follow suit.
The Moondawg's boot covers material from 1996 to 2006. Most of the songs and stories that Snider plays on his new album and played at the Feb. 5 gig I was already very familiar with from the boots. It's not to say that Snider live isn't fantastic - he is! It's just that, with the exception of the covers, I knew exactly what was coming after he hit the first few cords. The same goes for the older songs on the Storyteller album. Like I said, this isn't bad, just somewhat predictable. For the post-2006 material on Storyteller, I was laughing my ass off. If you saw someone last week walking down Cambridge Ave. in front of Mass General Hospital, laughing her ass off while listening to her MP3 player, that was me listening to "Mushroom Story," which itself is worth the price of the album.
"That last song was such a touching little number about athleticism and hallucinogenic drugs. You don't really hear enough of that in folk music any more. I'm just doing what I can."
To sum up, go see Snider live, buy the show download, and buy Storyteller. Give Storyteller to a friend who has never heard of Todd Snider. Folk music and stories like these are meant to be shared.
1. Greencastle Blues
2. Is This Thing Working?
3. Just Like Old Times
5. Iron Mike's Main Man's Last Request
6. Play a Train Song
7. 45 Miles
8. Doublewide Blues
9. D.B. Cooper
10. Tillamook County Jail
11. Vinyl Records
12. Keep Off The Grass
13. Beer Run
14. Stuck On A Corner
15. Runaround Sue (Dion cover)
16. Bill Elliott Story
17. Sideshow Blues
19. Conservative Christian, Right Wing, Republican, Straight, White, American Males
20. Come From The Heart (Guy Clark cover)
21. Relax Your Mind (Leadbelly cover)
Also, check out Snider's recent interview with Paste.