What does an artist do after he plays his greatest hit as the opening song on tour? The indefatigable folkie Todd Snider found himself in that position, sort of, at last night’s performance at Funky Biscuit, his first solo gig in Boca Raton.
The track in question was his exuberant fan favorite “Beer Run,” a tune as simple and accessible as it sounds, and a spelling lesson to boot. (So goes the chorus: “Bee double-e double-r u-n, beer run!”) The packed house sang along to every word of this slackadaisical anthem, after which Snider wondered aloud what to play next. “That’s my main song!” he exclaimed, to titters of laughter.
Alas, such a concern was unfounded: Snider had no problem filling an 18-song set list with enough earnest sing-alongs, stoner observations, campfire ballads and populist bromides to rouse his die-hards and stir newcomers alike. The Memphis tunesmith, on a rare Florida tour following his performance at last weekend’s 30A Songwriters Fest, played without a visible set list, performing a loose, shambolic survey of his nearly 30-year archive of genre-mixing music. All of which was ever more impressive considering, as he told the audience early on, that he was treated for vertigo earlier in the evening.
Accompanied only with his acoustic guitar and harmonica, this cult troubadour of the barefoot hippie set delved deep into his earliest work, including the rarely played “Talkin’ Seattle Grunge Rock Blues” from his beloved 1994 debut, with its clever nods to Nirvana and Pearl Jam, Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Other highlights included “D.B. Cooper,” his folk-heroic tribute to the missing skyjacker; “Statistician’s Blues,” with its strung-together, invented percentiles; and “Play a Train Song,” a moody and elegiac number that sounded like a lost B-side from Springsteen’s “Nebraska.”
As is Snider’s wont, he stuffed his songs with narrative diversions aplenty, many of them extending longer than the original recordings. He is as much a skilled comic monologist as he is a singer-songwriter, as evident by his hilarious asides during “Rose City” (in which he described the self-aggrandizing moment he “cleaned” the phrase “Todd Snider Rules” into the filthy side of a tunnel in Portland) and “Just Like Overnight” (in which he shared his LSD adventures as the singer of his jam-band supergroup the Hardworking Americans).
It only took about seven tracks for Snider to give in fully to audience requests, and he gamely played them all, his face plastered with joy at the prospect of playing folk and country blues for beers and pocket money. We’ll drink to that.
Talkin’ Seattle Grunge Rock Blues
Ballad of the Devil’s Backbone Tavern
Just Like Overnight
All of My Life
Looking for a Job
Stuck on the Corner
Play a Train Song