Friday, January 29, 2010
Concert review: Todd Snider and Great American Taxi at the Granada Theater (January 29)
Although I'm always a Todd Snider fan, the show is often judged by the backing band and this was one of the best.
DALLAS With this review, I'm fairly certain that we're striking a record for the most Todd Snider reviews on any site that isn't primarily billed as a fansite. That's because I consider the guy my personal poet laureate, and I rarely miss a show.
The distinguishing factor tonight was Todd's simultaneous opener and backing band, Great American Taxi. Although I missed their opening set, I quickly saw that they fit Todd like a glove, augmenting his songs without overshadowing them. Bandleader Vince Herman (of Leftover Salmon fame) anchored the show, bringing a coherence I've only seen in the rare one out of 15 Snider shows that featured his original band, The Nervous Wrecks. Herman's mandolin added another layer to Snider's clever songs, making them as much Grateful Dead as Elvis Costello or Bruce Springsteen -- making for a special night of music.
Perhaps the biggest surprise (and disappointment) was that Todd only played one song from his current release, The Excitement Plan, especially since the one track -- Greencastle Blues -- played so well. In particular, Taxi's keyboardist Chad Staehly brought gravity to the Randy Newmanesque-number, along with honky-tonk piano on favorite rockers.
On Snider classic "Alright Guy," there was a local lyrical twist, as instead of looking at a book with pictures of Madonna naked, he was looking at "Rhett Miller" and instead of being pegged for a scumbag, he was "an Old 97's fan."
The main set closed with a rollicking version of "The Devil You Know," a song that has inspired me over the last few years. It's combining of electric guitar, mandolin, and honky-tonk piano elevated it over any performance of it I'd heard before. The encore brought Todd, Taxi, and early opener The Trishas together for what might be the most beautiful version of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" that I've ever heard. The harmonies made me wish I'd arrived earlier.
The closing "Hound Dog" with longtime road manager Elvis was a fitting ending to one of the more skilled and classic-rich Todd Snider shows I've seen. I hope it yields more shows with as strong musicianship and a more diverse setlist.