Walking on stage with a beaming smile and bizarre prisoner-theater garb it was clear that Todd Snider’s concert on January 19th would be an entertaining experience. And entertaining it was.
Snider opened with the novelty song “Statistician’s Blues,” a recitation of statistics that was fairly clever and thoroughly disarming. One would expect the concert to evolve in a serious direction, as Snider would gradually incorporate more substantive songs into his act.
He didn’t. And the show steadfastly followed the opening promise: it remained an act.
Not a bad act either. Snider’s between-song storytelling – both folksy and irreverent – was refreshingly original and evident in his songwriting, especially “Conservative Christian Right-Wing Republican” (where Snider celebrates his “porn watchin’ lazy-ass hippie lifestyle”). Snider also let some poignant moments in, including the elegiac “DB Cooper” and a Fred Eaglesmith cover.
But the deep moments were few and the joke got old. Almost the entire concert was driven by kitsch appeal, an aesthetic that can only remain fresh if used intermittently among weightier material. Unlike, say, Ben Folds, who balances this dynamic flawlessly, Snider’s homespun tales never achieved the off-kilter Americana that Folds masters.
Not that Snider doesn’t have substantive songs in his repertoire. “Feel Like Fallin’ in Love,” “Lonely Girl,” and the excellent George Bush satire “You Got Away With It” all showcase his artistic talents. But Snider eschewed these songs in favor of jocular ditties, playful tunes that aspire to anything more than mere entertainment.